I found this Washington Post article about the American military's attempts to entice recruits by allowing them to get rid of part of their service obligation by serving in the Peace Corps (assuming, of course, their application is accepted by the organization) interesting, especially since while opposition to it is just beginning, the program was made into law three years ago:

Two longtime proponents of national service programs, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), devised the legislation "to provide Americans with more opportunities to serve their country," said Bayh's spokeswoman, Meghan Keck. When it stalled as a separate bill, aides to the senators said, they folded it into a 306-page defense budget bill, where it did not attract opposition.

Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez, who was appointed in 2002 by President Bush, said in a recent interview that the Peace Corps was unaware of the provision until after it became law. Vasquez declined to say whether he would have opposed the legislation, had he known about it in time.

"There might have been a discussion, there could have been some dialogue on this, but obviously that didn't happen," he said.

While it would have be nice if someone from Bayh's or McCain's office had contacted the Peace Corps while writing this law, this incident is just a small part of a larger problem that our democracy faces: the difficulty that normal citizens face when attempting to follow the legislative process.

There is C-SPAN, the political cable television network, but C-SPAN is boring and not very informative. If I wanted information on upcoming bills about, say, the Peace Corps, C-SPAN would not be able to help me. As a television channel (or two, if you decide to include C-SPAN2), I am limited to whatever is on C-SPAN at the time (which often has nothing to do with politics). More importantly, when I watch votes on C-SPAN, I cannot use it to read the text of the bills under consideration. Nor can I see who else is talking about those bills or the possible ramifications of the vote. Yes, I could just turn on my laptop while watching the television, but I would rather just save electricity and "attention resources" by using just one electronic device at a time.

Since C-SPAN just about fills the political television niche, I think it is likely that any answer will come from the Internet. THOMAS has the text of bills and the Congressional record, but is not easy to use, and looks just plain ugly. It also does not have syndicated feeds, AJAX, or easy-to-use permalinks - all the things that modern websites have.

I ran across Open Congress some weeks ago, but was disappointed to find that the site (which promises "RSS Everything," wikis, messageboards, etc., etc.) is not active, as their Current Legislation shows bills from March (Congress is slow, but not that slow). The Participatory Politics website claims a "beta is coming soon," but I would not be surprised if it has said that for the past 5 months.

The closest I have found to an answer is GovTrack.us, which was linked on the Open Congress page as a source for data. They have recent data (I was able to see the recent votes of Tom Davis, my representative) and RSS feeds (unfortunately, they only seem to be RSS 1.0, and at the current time they do not validate in FeedValidator, which makes it nigh impossible to use them), but none of the collaborative things that OpenCongress promised. Assuming the broken feeds are a temporary problem, GovTrack looks useful.