Healthcare Reform, Unemployment Extension Among Most Searched Bills

Unemployment extension, air transport, and financial overhaul also popular.

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With Congress on recess until September 13, legislation enthusiasts have turned their attention to bills that have already crossed Obama's desk, according to THOMAS.gov, the website devoted to tracking Congress. This site, operated by the Library of Congress, compiles a weekly list of the top-searched legislative items. Six of last week's 10 most-searched bills have been signed into law. This includes recent laws, like an emergency supplemental spending bill for increased border security, as well as older and more sweeping legislation, like healthcare reform and the Stimulus Act.

Below are last week's 10 most-searched bills on THOMAS.gov, according to data compiled by THOMAS on August 22.

1. 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 the many changes it makes to the existing healthcare system, this act requires that all individuals have health insurance and prohibits insurers from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions, two provisions that both will go into effect in 2014. More than a dozen provisions are scheduled to take effect in 2010, with the rest to be phased in through 2018. [See who gets the most in campaign contributions from health professionals.]

2. 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 would provide basic necessities to passengers in an airplane on the tarmac for an extended period of time. However, all of these provisions were stricken and replaced with Senate Amendment 4575, an amendment that seeks to provide funding for education and Federal Medical Assistance Percentages. The bill now provides states with extra money to pay teacher salaries and fund Medicaid. With these new provisions, the bill passed the House and was signed by President Obama on August 10. [See which members of Congress get the most money from the air transport industry.]

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. [See who gets the most from the finance and credit industry.]

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

Previous ranking: 5

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.

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

Previous ranking: 4

Sponsor: Rep. David Price (D-NC)

This bill was introduced in August 9, 2010, after its original version (the Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, H.R. 5875) was amended in its entirety to instead be dedicated to measures addressing childhood hunger and obesity. This bill appropriates additional money for 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 spends 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.