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The 10 Most Blogged Bills of 2009

December 29, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Congressional leaders may have decided which bills to bring in front of the C-SPAN cameras over the past year, but they didn’t control what the public paid attention to and what bills got them talking. Nearly 10,000 bills have been introduced in Congress over the past year. In many cases the ones that have really caught the public’s attention are different from the ones that were sanctioned and promoted by the congressional leadership. A separate discussion about the bills in Congress has been happening under the radar of our elected officials and the mainstream media.

At OpenCongress, our unique blog aggregator continually follows the online conversations about the bills in Congress. Every day, we run queries on blog search engines for every bill in Congress and link up blog posts with official data for relevant bills to build a more complete picture about what’s really happening in Congress. If you look at that data in the aggregate, you can start to see some revealing trends — which bills are getting a lot of buzz and which ones just aren’t, regardless of where lawmakers and the media want the buzz to be.

Below are the top ten blogged about bills of 2009. You can see the full list here.

1) H.R. 3200 – America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (3,152 posts)

No Surprise here. The most blogged bill of 2009 was the original health care bill introduced in the House this summer that formed the framework for the health care bills that eventually ended up passing the Senate and the House. Throughout the summer tea party rallies and town hall protests, this was the bill that conservatives were railing against. On the other side, the bill also had progressives excited and rallying because it contained a strong, national public option plan, high subsidies for helping low and middle-income people purchase insurance and promised to deliver insurance coverage to nearly all Americans.

2) H.R. 676 – United States National Health Care Act (3,085 posts)

The second most blogged about bill also has to do with health care, but unlike H.R. 3200 it doesn’t have much of anything to do with the current health care reform being pursued by Democratic congressional leaders and President Obama. This is the Conyers/Kucinich “single-payer” bill that would outlaw private health insurance companies and establish a national health care program to provide free care to all Americans. This is the standard progressive proposal. It has never been on the table for Congress’ current health care reform effort.

3) H.R. 1207 – Federal Reserve Transparency Act (2,731 posts)

This is the grassroots legislative success story of the year. This bill, from Rep. Ron Paul [R, TX-14], which would subject the Federal Reserve to a full government audit for the first time ever, was introduced in February with just 12 co-sponsors. It has since soared to a whopping 317 co-sponsors, including every single Republican in the House and more than half of the Democrats. The bill’s support has been built by a powerful activist campaign co-ordinted between both conservatives and progressives who have been angered by the Fed’s bailout actions following the financial collapse of 2008. Earlier this month, the bill was approved as part of a larger package of measures to reform regulations in the financial markets (H.R.4173).

4) H.R. 2454 – American Clean Energy and Security Act (2,443 posts)

The is the Waxman/Markley climate change bill that the House passed back in June by a vote of 219-212. At the heart of it is a controversial cap-and-trade program designed to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020. The Senate has yet to take up the bill. When they do, they will probably end up dropping the cap-and-trade provision.

5) H.R. 1 – American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (2,425 posts)

Another major legislative priority of President Obama, this is the $787 billion stimulus bill designed to life the economy out of recession following the financial collapse of 2008. The bill was signed into law on Feb. 17, 2009. This was really the first big legislative battle for the newly expanded Democratic majority in the 111th Congress, and they won. Since its passage, Republicans and Democrats have argued repeatedly over how effective it has been at creating jobs and keeping our economy afloat.

6) H.R. 45 – Blair Holt’s Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act (1,984 posts)

This is a fringe gun control bill that has attracted zero co-sponsors, has not budged in the legislative process and has virtually no chance of ever becoming law. Yet, gun-rights bloggers have been writing about it constantly over for last year. Why? It fits with their fears that President Obama and the Democratic congressional majority are planning to enact new restrictive gun control laws. The bill would create a nationwide system for prohibiting unlicensed gun-ownership. If approved, the law would require gun owners to apply for five-year licenses to own firearms.

7) H.R. 2 – Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (1,217 posts)

Are your cigarettes more expensive these days? This bill is probably the reason why. It’s actually another health care bill, but this one has already become law. It broke a political stalemate from the previous session of Congress and expanded the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by $32.8 billion over the next ten years, which will allow it to cover 4 million more children. To pay for the expansion, the bill raised the federal cigarette tax by $0.61 to $1 per pack. It was passed by the House on a bipartisan vote of 289-139, and the Senate by 66-32.

8) H.R. 1913 – Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (1,200 posts)

The biggest expansion to the federal hate crimes laws ever, this bill adds new protections for victims of bodily crimes that are motivated by a person’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The new protections are in addition to existing protections for such crimes based on race, color, religion, and national origin. It was signed into law by President Obama on October 28, 2009 after being attached to the the 2010 Department of Defense Authorization bill (H.R.2647) and approved with bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House.

9) H.R. 645 – National Emergency Centers Establishment Act (1,174 posts)

This bill calls on the Department of Homeland Security to set up at least six national emergency centers on military bases across the country that can temporarily house and treat people that are dislocated in cases of emergencies or major disasters. Sounds innocuous enough — maybe even a like a smart idea — right? Well, some people think it’s part of a coordinated federal strategy to lock people down, confiscate guns and suppress civil unrest. “These so called national emergency centers will be used in a national emergency but only if the national emergency requires large groups of people to be rounded up and detained,” write one Libertarian blogger. "If that isn’t the case, than why have these national emergency facilities built in military installations?

10) H.J.Res. 5 – Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President. (1,124 posts)

The only Constitutional amendment proposal on the list, this bill would remove the limit on the number of terms a President can serve. It would effectively repeal the 22nd Amendment that was approved by Congress in 1947 and ratified by the States in 1951. Despite the fact that similar legislation has been proposed in Congress repeatedly over the past 20 years, opponents to the Obama Administration have been claiming that it is a Democratic attempt to prolong Barack Obama’s presidency. “This is how Hitler, Stalin and Musolini became ‘Leaders for Life,’” writes the author of an anonymous viral email warning about the bill. The bill is sponsored by Rep. José Serrano [D, NY-16] this session. Here’s how he explains his position: “I introduce it as a matter of principle: I do not believe there should be term limits for any elected official. Elections should be the deciding factor."

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