During Election Week, several of the ten most-searched bills on THOMAS, the Library of Congress website dedicated to tracking legislation, were related to the top issues on voters' minds. Candidates' positions on key bills, such as those related to healthcare reform (No. 2, No. 4, and No. 7) and financial regulatory reform (No. 8) were major points of debate in some of this year's closest contests. With the House of Representatives to be under Republican control come January, these issues could be revisited in the 112th Congress.
Below are last week's 10 most-searched bills on THOMAS.gov, according to data compiled on November 7.
1. Debt Free America Act (H.R. 4646)
Previous ranking: 1
Sponsor: Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA)
This bill has been on THOMAS's top 10 since August 30, despite having received little attention in Congress. The Debt Free America 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 those involving stock. The bill would also repeal the individual income tax as of December 31, 2017, and create a bipartisan task force that would make recommendations about how to limit federal spending. Fattah's legislation 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 on a wide range of websites, from minor political blogs to the popular myth-debunking site Snopes.com.
2. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590)
Previous ranking: 2
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, the law requires that all individuals have health insurance and prohibits insurers from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions, two provisions that both 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. The bill has become a hot-button issue during this year's midterm elections--many incumbents who voted for the bill have seen that vote used against them on the campaign trail. Republican congressional leaders like Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell have stated their aim to "repeal and replace" the law. [See a slide show of 10 things that are (and aren't) in the healthcare bill.]
3. Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009 (H.R. 45)
Previous ranking: 3
Sponsor: Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL)
Named after a Chicago teen 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 House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security since February of that year.
4. Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (H.R. 4872)
Previous ranking: 6
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.
5. Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (H.R. 3081)
Previous ranking: 9
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 went on recess so that federal programs and offices can operate until they pass the full spending bills. Passing the FY 2011 budget will be the task of the lame-duck Congress when members return after elections.