As the title suggests, this law 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 will go into effect on December 1, 2010.
6. Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (H.R. 3081)
Previous ranking: 6
Sponsor: Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)
Congress hasn't passed spending bills to fund the government for the new fiscal year, which began on October 1. So they passed this temporary appropriations bill before they left so that 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.
7. Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 4173)
Previous ranking: 7
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.]
8. Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (H.R. 4872)
Previous ranking: 8
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. 2, 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 a reduction in 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.
9. America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200)
Previous ranking: 9
Sponsor: Rep. John Dingell (D-MI)
This bill is the original health care bill, which Rep. Dingell introduced in July 2009. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate around the same time, and both bills failed to pass. This bill included key features that were not in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care reform bill that was eventually signed into law (No. 2, above), most notably a government-run insurance option and the creation of an insurance exchange--a public marketplace in which insurers would sell their plans.
10. Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2010 (H.R. 4213)
Previous ranking: 1
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." The final bill established the long-awaited extension of unemployment benefits until the end of November 2010, allowing out-of-work Americans a total of 99 weeks of unemployment insurance. Many are now questioning whether Congress will--or should--approve further extensions, amid concerns about growing deficits. Last week, the National Employment Law Project, a workers' advocacy group, released a report estimating that 1.2 million people could lose their unemployment benefits if an extension is not passed. [See an Opinion slide show of 5 factors complicating Obama's relationship with a GOP congressional majority.]