A majority of last week's 10 most-searched bills on THOMAS.gov, the Library of Congress website dedicated to tracking legislation, have already been signed into law, but two of those measures were only temporary fixes to long-term problems and may see further action before the 111th Congress ends. In July, Congress passed an unemployment benefits extension (No. 10, below) that expires on November 30, and in October, lawmakers passed a continuing appropriations bill (No. 7, below) to keep the government running over the month-long election recess. Now, a further unemployment insurance extension and the passage of spending bills for fiscal year 2011 are among the top priorities in this lame-duck session of Congress.
Below are last week's 10 most-searched bills, according to data compiled on November 28.
1. 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--a provision known as the "individual mandate"--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. Fourteen states are currently challenging the law in federal courts, and a Virginia judge has said that he would rule by the end of the year on whether the individual mandate is constitutional.
2. 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
3. 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. To that end, the bill seeks to provide a way to liquidate failed firms and has also created a watchdog council at the Federal Reserve, the Financial Stability Oversight Council. [See who donates the most to Frank.]
4. Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009 (H.R. 45)
Previous ranking: 4
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. [Read more about gun control and gun rights.]