Congress is back from recess, with a fall agenda that includes the Small Business Jobs Act and deciding the fate of Bush-era tax cuts. Yet last week's most-searched bills on THOMAS.gov, the Library of Congress Web site devoted to tracking legislation, did not include any of the proposed laws that are at the top of the fall docket. The list is a mix of ever-popular laws like the stimulus package and the reforms of healthcare and the financial sector, alongside several lesser-known bills that have seen little action beyond their introduction.
Below are last week's 10 most-searched bills on THOMAS.gov, according to data compiled by THOMAS on September 12.
1. Emergency Medic Transition Act of 2009 (H.R. 3199)
Not on list last week
Sponsor: Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA)
The Emergency Medic Transition Act would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to states to provide fast-track EMT training and licensing to veterans trained as medics in the Armed Forces. Currently, former Armed Forces medics hoping to work as civilian EMTs must go through the same training as people with no prior experience. Harman has also promoted the bill as one way to improve the high unemployment rates faced by returning veterans. After its July 2009 introduction, this act remained untouched in the House Energy and Commerce Committee until over a year later, in late July 2010, when the committee finally passed the bill.
2. 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.
3. Debt Free America Act (H.R. 4646)
Previous ranking: 3
Sponsor: Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA)
This act aims to eliminate the $13 trillion national debt within seven years by levying a 1 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 outrage in the blogosphere 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. Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 4173)
Previous Ranking: 2
Sponsor: Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)
Also known as the “Restoring American Financial Stability Act,” or more commonly as the “financial regulatory reform bill,” this legislation was signed by President Obama on July 21, six months after its initial introduction. This law 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 a list of the finance and credit industry's favorite lawmakers.]
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 extends unemployment benefits until the end of November 2010, and also includes 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.