Congress' lame duck agenda is becoming more pressing as 2010 winds down, and the public appears to be taking notice. The 10 most-searched bills last week on THOMAS.gov, the Library of Congress website dedicated to tracking legislation, include five bills new to the list that have either been passed during the lame duck congressional session or are hot topics on Capitol Hill as the 111th Congress winds down. An extension of the tax cuts for the middle class (No. 1), a food safety overhaul (No. 8), and legislation to help young immigrants attain resident status (No. 10) all received fresh attention from online legislation browsers last week.
Below are last week's 10 most-searched bills, according to data compiled on December 5.
1. Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010 (H.R. 4853)
Not on list last week
Sponsor: Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN)
In its original form, the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010 would have permanently extended the so-called 2001 "Bush tax cuts" for Americans making less than $200,000 per year and couples making less than $250,000 annually, and would also have permanently extended tax relief provisions like the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit, and education tax incentives like the deduction of student loan interest. But on Monday, President Obama announced that he had reached a compromise with congressional Republicans to institute tax cuts across the board as well as numerous other forms of tax relief, in exchange for the extension of unemployment benefits. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced an amendment containing these provisions on December 9. Both Obama and both parties in Congress agree that the issue needs to be addressed, as the Bush-era tax cuts expire on January 1, 2011. [Check out our editorial cartoons on the GOP.]
2. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590)
Previous ranking: 1
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.
3. Claims Resolution Act of 2010 (H.R. 4783)
Not on list last week
Sponsor: Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI)
This bill provides for $3.4 billion in settlements for a class-action lawsuit filed against the U.S. government by Native Americans charging that the government mismanaged Indian Trust accounts, cheating them out of royalties for natural resources. The bill also allocates $1.2 billion to settle a lawsuit filed in 1997 alleging that the USDA was discriminating against black farmers in its farm loans and assistance programs. The bill was presented to the president on December 3 and awaits his signature.
4. Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 4173)
Previous ranking: 3
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 a list of the finance and credit industry's favorite lawmakers.]
5. Debt Free America Act (H.R. 4646)
Previous ranking: 2
Sponsor: Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA)
This bill has been among 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