Border Security, Medicaid Among Most Searched Bills

Congress passed legislation to dedicate more money to border security.

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The flurry of activity that preceded (and interrupted) the August recess in Congress occupied the minds of Internet browsers last week. Bills dealing with border security, child nutrition and obesity, and Medicaid funding--all of them passed in the week before members left town--were all among the top ten most-searched pieces of legislation on THOMAS.gov, the Library of Congress website devoted to tracking legislation. Each week, the site compiles a list of the top-searched legislative items for the past seven days.

Below are last week's ten most-searched bills on THOMAS.gov, according to data compiled by THOMAS on August 15.

1. FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act (H.R. 1586)

Previous ranking: 1

Sponsor: Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)

This bill originally intended to make flying more efficient and comfortable for passengers. One provision required air carriers to submit "emergency contingency plans" describing how the airline will provide food, water, rest rooms, cabin ventilation, and access to medical treatment for passengers in an airplane on the tarmac for an extended period of time. The bill also included provisions to overhaul the air traffic control system and improve safety by increasing pilot training requirements and limiting pilot fatigue. However, all of these provisions were stricken with Senate Amendment 4575, an amendment that would provide funding for education and Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP). With this amendment, the bill passed the House and was signed by President Obama on August 10.

2. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590)

Previous ranking: 2

Sponsor: Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)

More commonly known as the healthcare reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act became law on March 23, 2010, after months of partisan wrangling. Among its many provisions, this act imposes an individual mandate to obtain health insurance and prohibits insurers from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions. [See who gets the most from health professionals.]

3. Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 (H.R. 4173)

Previous ranking: 3

Sponsor: Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) 

The Restoring American Financial Stability Act was signed by President Obama on July 21, six months after its initial introduction. Also known as the financial regulatory reform bill, this bill is intended to address the causes of the 2008 economic crisis. It aims to create a watchdog council at the Federal Reserve and also to mitigate the dangers of "too-big-to-fail" financial institutions by providing a way to liquidate failed firms.

4. Making emergency supplemental appropriations for border security for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and for other purposes (H.R. 6080)

Not on list last week

Sponsor: Rep. David Price (D-NC)

This bill was introduced in August 9, 2010, after its original form (No. 9, below) was amended in its entirety to instead be dedicated to measures addressing childhood hunger and obesity. This bill appropriates additional money to go toward border security, including the construction of two new bases and border security fencing along the southwestern U.S. border, as well as further training for U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. The bill also appropriates additional money to be used toward Justice Department law enforcement activities along the border. Its movement through Congress was quick and free of major roadblocks: it was passed in the House by a voice vote and passed in the Senate by unanimous consent, then was signed into law on August 13, four days after its introduction.

5. Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2010 (H.R. 4213)

Previous ranking: 4

Sponsor: Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)

This bill, which President Obama signed into law on July 22, went through several versions and was known by several names, including the "American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act" and "Tax Extenders Act." In its final version, the bill establishes the long-awaited extension of unemployment benefits until the end of November 2010, as well as a provision establishing retroactive payment of benefits to those whose benefits had recently expired.