A bill can inspire widespread public interest without being passed. That is the lesson from last week's 10 most-searched bills on THOMAS, the Library of Congress' Web site dedicated to tracking legislation. The most popular bill last week was Pennsylvania Rep. Chaka Fattah's Debt Free America Act, which has been stuck in committee since February and has yet to find a cosponsor. Likewise, two prior versions of last week's No. 10 bill, the Public Officer Family Health Benefits Act, have failed since 2005, and the current version, which has seen no action since October 2009, also appears unlikely to pass in fall's lame duck session. Among the 10 most-searched bills on the site last week, four have either failed to pass or have stalled in committee.
Below are last week's 10 most-searched bills on THOMAS.gov, according to data compiled on October 17.
1. Debt Free America Act (H.R. 4646)
Previous ranking: 4
Sponsor: Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA)
This bill has been on THOMAS's top 10 since August 30, but this is the first time it has reached No. 1. 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 transactions involving stock. The bill would also, as of December 31, 2017, repeal the individual income tax. Fattah's act 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 in 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: 5
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, this act requires that all individuals have health insurance and prohibits insurers from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions, two provisions that both will 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. Shortly after President Obama signed the bill, attorneys general from 13 states joined together to file a suit in a Florida federal court, claiming that the healthcare reform law is unconstitutional. The number of states involved in that suit has since grown to 21. Virginia has also filed its own challenge to the law, and a federal judge indicated on Monday that he would rule on that suit by the end of the year. [See who gets the most from health professionals.]
3. Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2010 (H.R. 4667)
Previous ranking: 1
Sponsor: Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA)
As the title suggests, this bill 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.
4. Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 (H.R. 5297)
Previous ranking: 2
Sponsor: Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)
The Small Business Jobs and Credit Act includes provisions to establish a $30 billion fund to increase loan availability to small businesses. The act also includes an initiative to help fund states' lending programs and several forms of tax relief for small businesses, such as increased deductions for business start-up costs. This bill passed the House in June and passed the Senate in amended form on September 16. On September 23, the House agreed to the Senate version, named the "Small Business Jobs Act of 2010," and President Obama signed it into law four days later.