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Majority Whip McCarthy Develops App for House Floor

Majority Whip McCarthy Develops App for House Floor

By Erin McPike - November 17, 2011

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy unveiled a new application for mobile devices this week designed to make the congressional process more transparent to the average American. By downloading WhipCast to a handheld device or tablet, users can get the text of bills headed to the House floor and view the schedule of votes and debate.

Evidently, people want this kind of detail: McCarthy’s office announced Wednesday that within the first day of its availability, 23,000 people had downloaded WhipCast.

In a presentation to reporters this week, the California Republican asserted that the previous Congress under Nancy Pelosi’s speakership was not as open as it could be, and that his goal is to change that.

Of course, because the app was developed through a House leadership office, the information is limited to the lower chamber. In other words, don’t expect to see anything about the Senate until someone in that body of Congress takes a cue from McCarthy and develops a companion app.

WhipCast also has a GOP bent: McCarthy joked that Democrats are free to develop an app of their own, but until then, only House Republican policy positions and press releases will be available through the application.

McCarthy explained that the aim of the endeavor is to allow users to see legislation before it’s voted upon, enabling a concerned citizen with a comment, question or suggestion to contact their representative through the regular channels.

But users can also share bills and policy positions on networking sites like Facebook, so it could help the House GOP drum up support for its legislative efforts. And McCarthy’s office can use the app to see how often links are being shared, which would provide a sense of whether policies are as popular (or less so) than originally thought.

New tools can also be added to the app if there’s demand for them. Actual vote counts as they appear on the scoreboard behind the House floor aren’t yet available. Neither is a member directory, and McCarthy said he’s open to updating WhipCast going forward.

The majority whip’s office has been working on the project for the better part of 2011 and said the cost was similar to that of building a website. 

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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