Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) is one of the advocates for using technology to increase transparency and reduce costs.
For Harris, technologies such as the MarkUp app that allow for more efficiency and more communication between Members of Congress and their constituents are steps in the right direction.
“It’s less about saving trees and more about making the data available,” she said.
She explained that one of the major obstacles to improving technology on the Hill is the partisan nature of the institution.
“I think what you have to watch for is the inherent way that the chambers act in a partisan way,” she said, explaining that these tools are typically developed by each caucus independently, and each caucus has an incentive to keep the information-sharing technologies to itself.
Harris — who was a tax, trade and health counsel to Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) — said that while working in Congress, she attempted to build the kinds of platforms that POPVOX now hosts.
Ultimately, she had to venture out on her own because “I couldn’t find the appropriate place for something like that to happen inside Congress,” she said.
Others are working from the inside.
Lira explained that the recent technological changes are being made at a structural level — such as through the Clerk of the House’s office — which means they are more likely to stick around when control of the House changes hands in the future.
The Clerk’s new website, for example, is more likely to be a permanent addition because the documents are being hosted by the Clerk rather than by an individual Member’s office. “It means that people will always be able to get access to the raw information [and] legislative text,” he said.
Lira also said Members are opening up to using these new tools on a regular basis. “Younger Members on both sides of the aisle are really open to using iPads,” he said. “Some insist on it.”
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.