09/11/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Health Care Debate and the Marvel of Permalinks

Recently, we at OpenCongress have received a lot of requests to see the text of the America"s Affordable Health Choices Act (HR 3200) with page numbers. There's no denying this is a complex piece of legislation with far-reaching effects on Americans and the economy, and I think there's a genuine movement by Americans to understand the bill and debate specific points.

For example, there's an e-mail going around that mentions sections of the bill and refers to the page number where the point is located:

PG 427 Lines 15-24 Govt mandates program for orders for end of life
The Govt has a say in how your life ends

As the above makes clear, it's still a struggle to easily "compare notes" on legislation. You'd have to find a PDF of the bill, download it, read the section, and then send an e-mail back. Adding to the difficulty is what happens when the bill is marked up in committee or amended on the House floor. Now you're dealing with another PDF entirely, so the page numbers you were referring to earlier don't line up anymore.

Fortunately, we've made it pretty easy to debate specific sections of legislation here at OpenCongress.

Check out the text of HR 3200, and you'll notice there are "Comment" and "Permalink" buttons whenever you mouseover a section or clause. Those permalinks let you reference a specific section or clause of the bill. So, say you wanted to blog about the specific section mentioned in the quote above. That's easy! Here's a link:

A program for orders for life sustaining treatment for a States described in this clause is a program that[...]

And what if you want to debate the point? Just register for an OpenCongress account, and you can comment on this and every bill in Congress, section-by-section.

We'll have more on this later, but I encourage you to check out the permalink feature when you're referring to specific sections of the bill.

(P.S. For the record, OpenCongress doesn't include page numbers on bills because the Library of Congress doesn't publish bills that way.)