Despite the current hyperpartisan, pre-election climate, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have actually managed to agree on a few pieces of legislation. Two of last week's most popular bills on THOMAS, the Library of Congress' site dedicated to tracking legislation, passed both houses in September with bipartisan support. A bill that increases benefits to veterans and their families, as well as a stopgap appropriations bill to allow government operations to continue for another two months, both enjoyed both Democratic and Republican support in Congress. Also on this week's list is another bill that has received strong bipartisan support: a measure seeking to address the undervalued Chinese currency and its effect on trade with the United States.
Below are last week's 10 most-searched bills on THOMAS.gov, according to data compiled by THOMAS on October 3.
1. Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2010 (H.R. 4667)
Previous ranking: 6
Sponsor: Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA)
As the title suggests, this bill seeks to increase the rates of veterans' benefits such as disability compensation and dependent compensation, as well as the clothing allowance for some disabled veterans. The bill passed the House unanimously in March, 407-0, and also passed the Senate with unanimous consent and without amendments on September 22. President Obama signed the bill on September 30, and its changes go into effect on December 1, 2010.
2. Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 (H.R. 5297)
Previous ranking: 1
Sponsor: Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)
The Small Business Jobs and Credit Act includes provisions to establish a $30 billion fund to increase loan availability to small businesses. The act also includes an initiative to help fund states' lending programs and several forms of tax relief for small businesses, such as increased deductions for business start-up costs. This bill passed the House in June and passed the Senate in amended form on September 16. On Friday, the House agreed to the Senate version, named the "Small Business Jobs Act of 2010," and President Obama signed it into law on September 27. [Check out a roundup of editorial cartoons on the economy.]
3. Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (H.R. 3081)
Not on list last week
Sponsor: Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)
Congress hasn't passed spending bills to fund the government for the new fiscal year, which began on Friday. So they passed this temporary appropriations bill on Thursday to allow federal programs and offices to operate until they pass the full spending bills. With the House and Senate now adjourned to allow members to campaign for the midterm elections, passing the FY 2011 budget will be the task of the lame-duck Congress when members return after elections.
4. 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, 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.
5. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590)
Previous ranking: 4
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.