President Obama told citizens earlier this month to pressure Congress to act on jobs, and now the White House will make it easier for them to pressure the executive.
The White House will launch a new website on Thursday, dubbed We the People, to solicit petitions asking the government to take action on any issue. If a petition gathers 5,000 names in 30 days, appropriate policy experts will review it and the White House will issue an official response, the Associated Press reported, noting that a petition's URL will only be visible to its creator, essentially forcing people to gather online "signatures" on their own.
The idea fits in with Obama's recent push for citizen activism as he struggles to persuade congressional Republicans to cooperate with his agenda. Politically, the White House has sought to put the burden of economic reform on Congress; a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, meanwhile, showed that a plurality of respondents wanted Obama to "challenge the Republicans in Congress more often," while Congress's approval rating and respondents' confidence in Obama's leadership abilities both fell.
If the online, crowd-sourced format sounds familiar, that might be because House Republicans launched something similar last year. In May 2010 Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), now the House majority leader and then the House minority whip, rolled out YouCut, a website that solicited suggestions for federal spending cuts and let visitors vote on their favorite proposals, with House votes guaranteed to the most popular. This May, Cantor modified the program, introducing YouCut Phase II.
Video credit: White House