As the Senate prepares to take up the first major gun control debate since last December’s shooting massacre in Connecticut, a Sunlight Foundation analysis of the political pressures on 26 key senators paints a pessimistic picture for passage.
Absent a major pressure campaign to push senators to support gun control legislation, the political calculus points against the Senate passing any reform.
Public policy doesn’t stop when Congress passes a bill and the president signs it. Laws include rules and regulations that become the responsibility of agencies within the executive branch to write.
The Sunlight Foundation’s new Docket Wrench tool helps you at this stage of policy making.
Before an agency finalizes a proposed rule, there is a period of public commenting, which many special interests in Washington use to wield their influence beyond the halls of Congress. This exertion of influence in the rulemaking process has, for the most part, taken place outside the public eye.
Docket Wrench makes following this influence easier by providing a suite of tools to help researchers and members of the public delve into regulatory comments. Users can search more than 3.5 million regulatory documents to see how companies, interest groups and NGOs submit public comments on proposed rules, with many also linked to their profile on Sunlight’s Influence Explorer. Docket Wrench’s visualization feature groups textually similar documents together to help find evidence of form letter campaigns by these groups.
Open up DocketWrench
In the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, President Obama on Wednesday announced new national gun control measures. He has already urged members of Congress to do the same. Here is our comprehensive look at where lawmakers stand on guns, as well as political spending and voting history. Explore and share what you think Congress should do about guns in this country.
The 113th Congress, by the numbers
It comes as little surprise to hill watchers that House staff are underpaid compared to their Senate equivalents, let alone executive branch and private sector staff, but we decided to dig a bit deeper. Just in time for the holidays (and those non-existent public sector bonuses) here’s a comparison of key positions in the House, Senate, and executive branch. We admit that the data is a bit old, like the Ghost of the War on Christmas Past, but it’s the best we can do with what’s available.
Beware dangerous cliff
President Barack Obama stood to benefit politically from making that statement in April 2012, but his inference is worth considering. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand reflected in 2011, “My own experience in Congress is when women are on committees and at hearings, the nature of the discussion is different, and the outcomes are better –- we reach better solutions, better decisions are made.”
In 2010, voters were so determined to upset the Washington establishment that they elected a House of Representatives in which 20 percent of the faces were new. It was a political revolution. But nearly two years later, the 89 rookies elected in November, 2010—80 Republicans and nine Democrats—don’t look all that different from their more veteran colleagues.
It wasn’t long after they arrived in Washington in January 2011 before some of the newbies began mimicking their seniors in hitting the party trail, holding fundraisers to cover their 2010 campaign debts. Since then these corporate special interests and businesses registered to lobby have doubled down on their campaign donation to the first-year House members.
Head-to-head voting comparison between representatives in Congress.
Companies, associations and the lobbyists employed by them contributed almost $19 million to charities in honor of federal officials last year, the vast majority of it for members of Congress, according to a new report I wrote over on the Reporting Group blog. The report parsed messy disclosures that all lobbying entities have to file every six months ever since 2008, when a law aimed at shining a light on lobbyist influence in Washington came into effect.
To find out which lawmakers and cabinet members were honored most, or to see which interests paid the most in honorary expenses last year, search the interactive graphic below. You can even filter the graphic for lawmakers from your home state.
Lawmakers have sent only 54 bills to President Obama so far this year, making it one of the least productive sessions on record. Most of the new laws are trivial.