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Booker, McCaskill: Senate Needs to Be More Digital Friendly

Booker, left, takes a selfie with Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., last summer. Booker wants the Senate to get more digital friendly. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Claire McCaskill of Missouri are calling for an update of Senate technology policies to make better use of digital technology.  

"New technology is changing the way we all live and work, and we have exciting opportunities to harness new tools in the Senate to improve our work with constituents," the senators wrote in a letter to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee Wednesday. "Innovation in government is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue; it is an American issue." The senators listed seven major recommendations for updating Senate policies that they argue are outdated. "Our aim is to remove unnecessary barriers to technological creativity while best serving constituents and saving taxpayer resources," they wrote in the letter.  

Among their recommendations are "writing entirely new guidelines to fit unique uses of email as a communications tool," with a focus on updating the use of email newsletters to constituents.  

Booker and McCaskill also called for offices to be allowed to track social media and press mentions, pointing to current rules that prohibit offices from collecting such information. The two Democrats, who are both media savvy, recently schooled their colleagues on how to effectively utilize social media at a Democratic luncheon, at the request of Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who serves as the Rules and Administration ranking member.  

According to Booker's office, the New Jersey Democrat heard from Senate technology professionals about the outdated policies. The review of the policies took around one year and involved discussions with those professionals about how they could be improved.  

The two senators recommend catching up to the House's technology policies with the development of a bulk data publishing site, mirroring "docs.house.gov," that would provide information on bill and amendment status and committee activities. Online document coding would be updated to the XML format. The senators also asked that a House policy allowing for digital franking, or paying for media on the Internet, be adopted in the Senate.  

Booker and McCaskill asked that the committee review more popular and stable content management systems, such as WordPress, transition to cloud-based technology for constituent information, and simplify the vendor contracting process.  

The changes, the senators contend, would improve Senate transparency and accountability, and make Senate information more accessible to staff, the press and their constituents.  

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report. Related: Senate Democrats Dominate Awards for Social Media, Congressional Websites Woodall, Duckworth Want Congress to Speak Frankly About Franking Mail The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.