Bush signs Obama’s first bill into law

By Riley Roberts

U.S. Senator Barack Obama’s first piece of legislation, the so-called “Google for Government” act, made it through both houses of Congress last month. When President Bush signed the bill into law last Tuesday, the freshman lawmaker scored his first solo victory in his longtime campaign to increase government accountability.

It was a big day for Obama, D-Ill., who has partnered with other senators on previous acts but never authored successful legislation himself.

“I finally got a bill passed,” he told The Associated Press.

The legislation, proposed in conjunction with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., will create a Web site designed to allow Americans to search a comprehensive database of government grants, contracts, insurance, loans and financial assistance. The act is slated to go into effect by no later than January 1, 2008.

“He’s thrilled that it passed,” said Tommy Vietor, Obama’s press secretary, in an interview with The Daily Illini. “It represents a bipartisan effort to make government spending more transparent for everyday Americans as well as the media.”

The public’s reaction to the provisions of the act has been positive.

“I think (the law) sounds like a good idea,” said Erinn Mitchell, sophomore in LAS and a registered voter in Illinois. “It’s a mystery where the money is. Especially given the history of Illinois, it’s understandable why he’s proposing it. People want to know where their money is going.”

Despite Obama’s collaboration with his Republican colleagues and widespread public support, several lawmakers anonymously threatened to pigeonhole the legislation before it ever reached the Senate floor.

“The opposition held the bill up for awhile, but thanks to the support of bloggers on both the left and the right, (Obama) was finally able to get it passed,” Vietor said.

The concrete impact that members of the blogosphere were able to have on policymakers displays an impressive potential for public activism, Vietor said.

Even in the wake of this recent success, though, Obama is not resting on his laurels.

“The Senator has a number of pieces of legislation in the works right now,” Vietor said. “Just (last) week, Congress passed another bill authored by Obama and Coburn, designed to stop abuse of no-bid contracting in the aftermath of disasters like Hurricane Katrina.”

In addition to this legislation, press releases issued by Obama’s office indicate that the senator is reaching across the aisle to develop several other bipartisan acts to increase education grants and provide funding for military assistance to the Sudan, among other things.

Despite media speculation about a presidential run in 2008, Vietor said, Obama remains focused on serving the American people in the role he occupies now.

“He likes his job in the Senate,” Vietor said. “He’s going to keep doing what needs to be done and fighting for his constituents. The passage of the ‘Google for Government’ act was a part of that.”

“It will shine the light,” Obama said to the Associated Press. “The famous saying that sunshine is the disinfectant. This will apply some sunshine on the budgeting process. It’s just one step. We’ve got to take more steps to control how we spend money here and make sure it’s spent wisely.”