What Did Congress Do for You This Year? 10 Bills the 112th Passed
You wouldn’t know it from the rhetoric in Washington, but Congress actually passed a few bills this year.
Beyond renaming 21 post offices and commissioning five new commemorative coins—including one for the National Baseball Hall of Fame—House members and senators passed several pieces of legislation despite the deep, partisan rancor that put a stain on the 112th Congress. Here’s a rundown of just 10 of those bills that were signed into law by President Obama.
FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 Signed: Feb. 14, 2012
After passing 23 short-term reauthorizations since 2007, Congress finally passed a bill funding the Federal Aviation Administration until 2015. The holdup: A provision that makes it more difficult for airline and railroad workers to unionize. Although labor groups and Democrats criticized the measure, the $63.6 billion bill made it through conference and passed both chambers just days before another shutdown.
Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act of 2012 Signed: April 4, 2012
Exposed to nonpublic information and with a history of suspicious trading activity, lawmakers passed the STOCK Act to prevent insider trading by members of Congress. The bill also banned bonuses for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives for a period of time. Months later, Congress had to pass a quick fix to the legislation, giving certain members of the executive branch more time to post financial disclosures online for security reasons.
Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act Signed: April 5, 2012
In a rare moment of bipartisanship, both houses of Congress quickly passed the favorably named JOBS Act, which aimed to ease certain securities regulations for small businesses. One of the biggest provisions in the bill allows for certain types of crowd funding, a method of using the Internet to pool money for what the legislation called “emerging growth companies.”
Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012 Signed: May 30, 2012
With just one day before the 78-year-old Export-Import Bank would have been shut down, President Obama signed a law that reauthorizes the institution that aims to promote U.S. exports. Although Obama praised the legislation during the bill signing, saying it would create jobs at home, he called the bank “little more than a fund for corporate welfare” during the 2008 campaign. The bill extended funding for the institution through September 2014.
Temporary Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 Signed: June 29, 2012
This catch-all bill not only extended federal highway programs through 2014, but it also kept student loan interest rates down for another year and extended the National Flood Insurance Program for another five years. Widely criticized for cramming all three entities together, many members said they felt like they had no choice but to pass the legislation because of close deadlines and jobs on the line. Republicans failed to get last-minute language inserted to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 Signed: July 27, 2012
Signed a few months before the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas, the bill provided $70 million to Israel for its “Iron Dome” rocket defense system. The bill also reaffirmed the commitment the U.S. has with its Middle Eastern ally, calling for a two-state solution and pledging to oppose any United Nations proposal to grant Palestinian statehood. The bill signing happened a day before former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited that country.
Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 Signed: Aug. 10, 2012
The House and Senate overwhelmingly passed stronger sanctions on the Iranian government in response to the nation’s nuclear program. The bill penalizes companies that work with Iran’s central bank and do business with the country’s energy sector. Already reeling from previous sanctions, this bill could cost Iran tens of millions of dollars. The bill also imposed new sanctions of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime after two years of deadly conflict in that country.
In order to keep the federal government afloat until next year, and avoid a major budget battle right before an election, Congress quickly passed another six-month stopgap measure. As part of the $524 billion CR, Congress maintained a federal pay freeze and cut $26.6 billion in discretionary spending, one of conditions of 2011’s Budget Control Act.
European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011 Signed: Nov. 27, 2012
Already averse to further carbon taxes in the U.S., Congress passed a bill that essentially allows American airlines to be exempt from paying carbon emissions fees enacted by the European Union for all planes flying to and from airports in Europe. The bill allows the secretary of transportation to tell American companies whether they need to pay certain fees imposed by the EU. The U.S. joined China and India in opposition the EU measure, arguing it goes against national sovereignty.
Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal Act of 2012 Signed: Dec. 14, 2012
After Russia entered the World Trade Organization earlier this year, the U.S. attempted to normalize trade relations with the country through this legislation. However, one provision in the law that fines Russian human rights violators received a heated response from Russian officials. In retaliation, the Russian parliament recently passed a bill banning adoptions by American citizens, a measure President Vladimir Putin seemed willing to support.