House GOP Unveils Website to Build Agenda
Visitors to the site are invited to post an opinion about the economy, national security or another issue, or perhaps "start your own debate" with a posting that others could then respond to.
While more than a half-dozen Republican lawmakers stressed the site was nonpartisan and open to all, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California also said it marked "our effort, a Republican effort, to change the course of history."
He and others said it was possible an idea that surfaced on the site could form the basis of legislation or an amendment Republicans would advance on the floor of the House later this year.
In addition, it is expected to be a prelude to a formal agenda to be unveiled as the fall campaign approaches. The opening of the site came nearly 18 months into a two-year congressional session in which Republicans have been criticized frequently by Democrats for opposing President Barack Obama's agenda without offering alternative proposals of their own.
Aides said the site was designed to appeal to all age groups, although it included social networking features that might appeal particularly to younger Internet users. Postings can be made easily to Facebook or Twitter accounts, for example, as well as to the Republican-backed site.
Exit polls from the last midterm elections, in 2006, show House Democratic candidates outpolled Republicans 63-38 percent among voters aged 18-29, and 53-45 percent among those age 30-44. The results were similar for 2008.
Visitors to the site are asked to register, and as a condition of doing so, agree that their Republican lawmaker may contact them via e-mail. There is no similar notification about Democratic lawmakers.
McCarthy said the list of registrants for the site would be owned by the House Republicans, but said it would not be sold for political purposes or used to solicit campaign donations.
While most government web sites end in .gov, Republicans said House officials could not provide one for them because the site makes use of more advanced technology than is generally supported.
Democrats issued a statement contending that the website was a stalking horse for a Republican agenda of returning to "the same failed policies that benefited the big banks, Wall Street, the oil companies and the insurance companies."