Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Congress- Now Available via Smart Phone

Do you ever find yourself riding home on the Metro, suddenly overwhelmed by the urge to know what bills were introduced in Congress today? Do you get irritable if you don’t have an instantaneous way to find out who represents the 99203 zip code in Congress? If you’re anything like me, and I bet you are, those situations plague you on a nearly daily basis. Fortunately, if you have a Droid or an iPhone, there is an app for that.
Droid owners are in luck; the “Congress” application by Sunlight Labs is by far the best available on any platform. To find it, search in the marketplace for “Congress.” The application allows you to search for members of Congress by name, state, current location and zip code—perfect for enlightening those unenlightened friends who don’t know who represents them in Congress (you’re going to be so popular!). The application also allows you to search bills and laws, and gives details such as who introduced it, current activity and bill text via Once you find an interesting bill, you can share the information easily via Facebook, Twitter, text message or email. It also tracks votes in Congress, gives committee member listings for all committee and lists upcoming hearings. And if all of those features weren’t exciting enough, you can also create personalized alerts to be notified of activity for any bill. Now, you have no excuse to be caught off-guard when your local post office is renamed!
The applications available to iPhone users aren’t as comprehensive as the “Congress” application for Droid. Sunlight Labs does have a iPhone version of “Congress”, but it only has House and Senate floor updates, Whip notices (as nerdy as I am, I’m not entirely sure I would ever look at Whip notices), hearing information, and miscellaneous Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports and other governmental documents. The application is fantastic if you want to see how a certain bill was scored by the CBO, but less helpful if you want to know basic information, such as who is the at-large Congressman for Montana (Rep. Denny Rehberg, by the way). If you’re looking for a basic Congressional guide, your best bet is the “Congress 411” application. It allows you to search members by Senate, House and location. But, the bill information and video feed seems to be rather outdated, so proceed with caution.
However, iPhone users win overall with the C-SPAN app, which is currently unavailable on the Droid. And with C-SPAN radio, C-SPAN, C-SPAN2 and C-SPAN3, who needs Congressional directories when you can listen to history in real time?

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