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.
6. "To provide for a 10 percent reduction in pay for Members of Congress..." (H.R. 6134)
Previous ranking: 2
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO)
Coffman says that this bill, which he introduced on September 15, would subject the federal government
to the same budget-cutting realities currently faced by many states. The measure would reduce the salaries of members of Congress by 10 percent and also subject all federal civilian employees to a two-week non-consecutive furlough in 2011. Altogether, Coffman says, the bill would save taxpayers $5.5 billion dollars. The bill is currently being considered by the House Committees on Administration, Oversight and Government Reform, and the Judiciary. [See which industries give the most to Congress.]
7. Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 4173)
Previous ranking: 5
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.
8. Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009 (H.R. 45)
Previous ranking: 8
Sponsor: Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL)
Named after a Chicago teenager who was gunned down in 2007 on a public bus, this act would tighten gun ownership provisions in the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, a 1993 law that mandated background checks on gun buyers. The Blair Holt act would require anyone possessing a firearm to first obtain a firearm license. The bill was introduced at the start of 2009 and has remained in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security since February of that year. [See who in Congress gets the most from gun control groups.]
9. Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act (H.R. 2378)
Not on list last week
Sponsor: Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH)
This bill would give the government the power to impose tariffs on imports from countries whose currencies are found to be significantly undervalued or overvalued. The bill is specifically meant to target China, the world's No. 1 exporter, which has been keeping its currency's value artificially low against other world currencies and thus enjoying a trade advantage. The bill passed the House 348-79 with bipartisan support, garnering votes from 249 Democrats and 99 Republicans.
10. Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (H.R. 4872)
Previous ranking: 9
Sponsor: Rep. John Spratt (D-SC)
The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, which contains amendments to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (No. 5, above), was passed one week after the Patient Protection Act. Among the key changes that H.R. 4872 made are the closure of the Medicare "donut hole" and the lowering of the penalty for not having insurance. This bill also reforms the student loan system, including among its many provisions the elimination of the program via which federal student loans were administered through private institutions.