Fewer than 60 days remain until Election Day, and many congressional candidates are campaigning by highlighting legislation already passed by the 111th Congress. An incumbent's vote on matters like healthcare reform, financial regulatory reform, or the stimulus bill can be seen as either a boon or a liability. According to THOMAS.gov, the Library of Congress Web site devoted to tracking legislation, among last week's 10 most-searched bills are six that have been signed into law, yet remain political footballs in congressional races across the country. The fates of other popular bills on the list remain uncertain. The Small Business Jobs and Credit Act (No. 8, below), for example, is one piece of legislation that President Obama and congressional Democrats are expected to push after recess, as a way to potentially counteract stubbornly high unemployment.
Below are last week's 10 most-searched bills on THOMAS.gov, according to data compiled by THOMAS on September 5.
1. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590)
Previous ranking: 1
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. 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. Shortly after President Obama signed the bill, attorneys general from 13 states joined together to file a suit in a Florida federal court, claiming that the healthcare reform law is unconstitutional. The number of states involved in that suit has since grown to 21. Virginia has also filed its own suit, which is currently being heard in a federal court in Virginia.
2. Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 (H.R. 4173)
Previous ranking: 2
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 campaign contributions from the securities and investment industry.]
3. Debt Free America Act (H.R. 4646)
Previous ranking: 5
Sponsor: Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA)
This act aims to eliminate the $13 trillion national debt within seven years by levying a one-percent tax on all financial and retail transactions, except for transactions involving stock. The bill would also, as of December 31, 2017, repeal the individual income tax. Fattah's Debt Free America Act was introduced in February 2010 and immediately referred to committee, with no action taken on it since. However, in recent weeks, the proposal has generated controversy in the blogosphere, with bloggers expressing outrage at the idea of a tax on transactions. The bill has been discussed in a wide range of Web sites, from minor political blogs to the popular myth-debunking site Snopes.com.
4. 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 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. The bill was only passed after a partisan struggle in the Senate, where it was filibustered by Republicans who said they did not want to add the bill's $34 billion price tag to a budget deficit of over $1 trillion.