App of the Week: Congress

There's never been an easier way to keep track of what Washington is doing

By Andrew Leonard
Published July 21, 2013 6:00PM (EDT)
                  (<a href=''>silver tiger</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>/Salon)
(silver tiger via Shutterstock/Salon)

There is nothing not to like about the Sunlight Foundation’s Congress App, now available on iOS as well as Android. It is, quite simply, the most painless way to keep up to date on a very painful topic: what Congress is up to. It’s open-source, steadily adding features, and fits in your pocket.

The Sunlight Foundation is a nonprofit that describes itself as using “the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency.” At App of the Week, we support this mission! Especially if it can be done for free on an iPhone.

The home screen pops you directly into an up-to-the-minute list of the latest activity from the floors of the House and Senate. Checking in on Friday, I learned that Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, had introduced a new bill “to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting, and for other purposes.” Representing her constituents! I also noticed a more cryptic new piece of legislation introduced by Sen Roy Blunt, R-Mo., that would require the EPA to “conduct a fuel system requirements harmonization study.” Hmm. Sounds suspicious. Oh right -- that’s part of the long-standing Republican obsession with proving that gasoline blends that cut down on pollution are responsible for high gas prices.

Fun! With the Congress app, you can also “follow” specific legislators or bills to keep close track of new Washington shenanigans. Eventually, push notifications will be included in the app, something that I can imagine will be very handy for reporters or activists wanting to keep an eye on particular legislators or bills.

I looked around my own part of the country to see what the local congressional reps were up to. Mike Honda, a House Democrat who represents the South Bay, a district ranging from Fremont to San Jose, introduced an odd-sounding bill on July 9: “Recognizing the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Ghadar Party in the United States.”

The Ghadar Party?

In 1913 Indian nationals formed the Hindustani Association of the Pacific Coast in Astoria, Oregon, popularly known as the Ghadar party with a objective of liberating India from British colonialism. Later, the Ghadar party established its headquarters in San Francisco, California.

Thousands of Ghadar supporters living in the US and Canada returned to India and inspired their countrymen to fight for their independence from Britain.

Neat. At App of the Week, I have a rule of thumb: If I learn something new within five minutes of installing the app, I like it.

For Android and iOS.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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