Congress is back in session this week, and lawmakers are deciding which legislation should be top priority in the closing weeks of the 111th Congress. Constituents who want to stay in-the-know about the most pressing items on the lame-duck docket can visit THOMAS, the Library of Congress website dedicated to tracking legislation, which features both summaries and the full text of all proposed bills, as well as voting records for all members of Congress. Tax cuts, an unemployment benefits extension, and a budget for the new fiscal year are among the top issues that the lame duck Congress might address, and are also items that could affect a large number of Americans.
Below are last week's 10 most-searched bills on THOMAS.gov, according to data compiled on November 14.
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 and has been at No. 1 for four consecutive weeks, 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 Web sites, 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. Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act of 2009 (S. 1435)
Not on list last week
Sponsor: Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS)
The Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act was introduced in July 2009 and immediately referred to committee, and has seen no action since then. The act seeks to ban the creation of many types of human-animal hybrids, such as human eggs fertilized with animal sperm, animal eggs fertilized with human sperm, and animals with human brains or reproductive organs. Brownback has denounced these practices as "unethical" and "unnatural," saying that this area of research needs to be governed by legislation showing "a respect for human life." In recent years, scientists have created human-animal hybrids as ways to better test certain drugs or grow human organs. The legislation would still allow for many of the most common current uses of animals in medical research, such as the use of animal parts, like heart valves, in humans.
4. 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.