Politics & Government

GOP Web forum aims to hear 'voice of the common man'

WASHINGTON — California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy says there's nothing more inspiring or powerful than "the common voice of the common man."

But he decided that voice wasn't being heard in the halls of power.

"You go across the country and people are very frustrated that nobody in Washington is listening to them," said McCarthy, a second-term congressman from Bakersfield.

McCarthy is trying to change that. He's the chairman of a new Web forum called "America Speaking Out," an attempt by House Republicans to start a national conversation with Americans, giving them a megaphone to change the very way Congress governs.

"Technology has changed every part of our life – how we pay our bills, how we buy our airline tickets, even how we buy our movie tickets," said McCarthy, who came up with the idea. "But it has not fundamentally changed how we interact with government."

Visitors to the website, www.americaspeakingout.com, can post their ideas on topics such as national security, fiscal responsibility or anything else that's on their mind. The forum is designed to provide a way for people to debate and even vote on issues, which Republicans then plan to incorporate into their policy agenda.

"It's time for the American people to once again have a role in driving America's agenda," McCarthy said. And instead of having debates take place behind closed doors, McCarthy said, the forum is an attempt at "throwing open the doors and letting a little sunshine in."

Ohio Rep. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, called it an example of "servant leadership," leading by serving and listening.

"We want them, the American people, including the millions of patriots active in the tea party movement," said Boehner. "We want them involved, and we're proving it."

Since launching the site in May, McCarthy said the forum has drawn more than a million visitors, and more than 500,000 people have voted on various issues. He estimated the cost of the project at less than $20,000, roughly equivalent to what it would take to launch a Web page for a member of Congress.

McCarthy is also lobbying Democratic leaders to take advantage of more technology by allowing members to engage with constituents by using Skype. He said it would save taxpayers money.

Under current rules, Skype is an unauthorized website due to fears that it could pose a cyber-security risk. Members must use more expensive and traditional methods of communicating, such as video conferencing.

McCarthy noted that the Federal Communications Commission has already urged Americans to use Skype as a way to save money every month.

"If the FCC says Skype and similar programs are good enough for the American people, then they are good enough for Congress," he said.

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