POPVOX’s Countdown of the Top Bills in 2013


I frequently use POPVOX to explore information about a bill — what’s in the text of a bill, who introduced it, what other’s are saying about, who those others are (individuals and corporations/organizations) — and to write a letter of opposition or support to my elected representatives.  My observation is that the right-wing nut jobs have more of a propensity to support/oppose legislation than do reasonable folks.  Those of us who oppose the right-wing agenda need to become more active and vocal so our elected representatives in Congress understand they need to support us too — not just the very loud and radical right wing base.

Here’s a copy of an email I received today from POPVOX itemizing the top 50 bills that garnered the most activity on POPVOX during the first half of the 113th Congress:

by RACHNA on DECEMBER 31, 2013

Members of Congress introduced more than 6,600 bills and resolutions in 2013. The Second Amendment and gun control legislation dominated the top bills list, the majority of which were introduced in the beginning of the year. Not surprisingly, the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” was also a top priority among POPVOX users, and also the House has voted to repeal some or all of it nearly 50 times.  

The Countdown of the Top 50 Bills

Together, POPVOX users from every state and Congressional district sent more than 900,000 messages to their lawmakers in Washington. These are the top 50 bills and proposals that POPVOX users weighed in on with Congress in 2013, ranked by the aggregate number of combined support and opposition.

  • HR 321
    #50 Firearm Safety and Public Health Research Act

    Would allow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct crucial scientific research into firearm safety, according to bill sponsor, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). 

    146 Support | 3,076 Oppose

  • HR 1369
    #49 Firearm Risk Protection Act

    Would require gun buyers to have liability insurance coverage before being allowed to purchase a weapon and imposes a fine of $10,000 if an owner is found not to have the required coverage; service members and law enforcement officers are exempt from this insurance requirement, according to bill sponsor, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

    99 Support | 3,157 Oppose

  • HR 965
    #48 Banning Saturday Night Specials

    Would prohibit the possession or transfer of junk guns, also known as Saturday Night Specials.

    152 Support | 3,133 Oppose

  • HR 900
    #47 Cancel the Sequester Act

    A one-sentence bill that would cancel the sequester, or across-the-board federal spending cuts that were implemented in 2013.

    2,406 Support | 899 Oppose

  • HR 890
    #46 Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act

    Extends the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program through December 2013 and overturns President Obama’s efforts to waive welfare work requirements, according to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). This bill passed in the House on March 13, 2013, and is awaiting consideration by the Senate.

    3,208 Support | 120 Oppose

  • HR 1005
    #45 Defund Obamacare Act

    To deauthorize appropriation of funds, and to rescind unobligated appropriations, to carry out the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

    2,905 Support | 478 Oppose

  • HR 1094
    #44 Safeguard American Food Exports Act

    To prohibit the sale or transport of equines and equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce for human consumption.

    2,727 Support | 707 Oppose

  • HR 61
    #43 Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act

    Would stop the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from providing federal family planning assistance under Title X to abortion businesses until they certify they won’t provide and refer for abortions, according to bill sponsor, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

    934 Support | 2,513 Oppose

  • HR 431
    #42 Gun Transparency and Accountability (Gun TRAC) Act

    Would once again allow ATF to use information on guns traced to crimes; it would remove the requirement that background checks be destroyed within 24 hours; and it would eliminate the ban on federally required inventory audits of gun dealerships, according to bill sponsor, Rep. Jackie Speier(D-CA).   

    102 Support | 3,348 Oppose

  • HR 793
    #41 Firearm Safety and Buyback Grant Act

    Would establish a grant program within the Department of Justice in which grants would be eligible to state, tribal, and local units of government and law enforcement agencies to carry out anti-violence campaigns, gun safety campaigns, and firearms buyback programs, according to bill sponsor, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA).

    98 Support | 3,370 Oppose

  • HR 2959
    #40 National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act

    To amend title 18, United States Code, to provide a national standard in accordance with which nonresidents of a State may carry concealed firearms in the State. This bill was passed by the House in the 112th Congress, but hasn’t been voted on in this Congress.

    3,106 Support | 385 Oppose

  • HR 236
    #39 Crackdown on Deadbeat Gun Dealers Act

    Would increase the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to: Inspect federal firearms licensees (FFLs) for compliance with recordkeeping requirements by increasing the allowable inspections per year from one to three; Increase the penalties for knowingly misrepresenting any facts about a firearms sale; and Authorize the Attorney General to suspend a dealer’s license and assess civil penalties for firearms violations, including failure to have secure gun storage or safety devices, according to bill sponsor, Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI).

    184 Support | 3,319 Oppose

  • Guns
    #38 Toomey-Schumer-Manchin Amendment

    A bipartisan group of senators — Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen.Joe Manchin (D-WV) — introduced a compromise proposal to expand background checks. The proposal would require states and the federal government to send all necessary records on criminals and the violently mentally ill to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). It also extends the existing background check system to gun shows and online sales. The Senate rejected the proposal in a 54 to 46 vote on April 17, 2013 — six votes short of the 60 needed.

    197 Support | 3,343 Oppose

  • S 47
    #37 Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act

    To reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, and includes measures on campus safety, tools to reduce domestic violence homicides, and protections for at-risk groups such as immigrants, tribal victims and members of the LGBT community, according to bill sponsors, Sen. Patrick Leahy(D-VT) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID). This bill was enacted into law after being signed by the President on March 7, 2013.

    573 Support | 3,008 Oppose

  • S 374
    #36 Fix Gun Checks Act

    To ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the national instant criminal background check system and require a background check for every firearm sale.Reported by Committee on Mar 12, 2013, and is awaiting consideration by the full Senate.

    218 Support | 3,532 Oppose

  • HR 45
    #35 Repeal “Obamacare”

    To repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and health care-related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. This bill passed in the House on May 16, 2013 by a 229-195 vote, and is awaiting consideration by the Senate.

    2,970 Support | 899 Oppose

  • HR 238
    #34 Fire Sale Loophole Closing Act

    Would prohibit gun dealers whose licenses are revoked to convert their inventory to personal collections, to be sold without conducting background checks on purchasers, under current law, according to bill sponsor, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI).

    178 Support | 3,714 Oppose

  • HR 35
    #33 Safe Schools Act

    Would repeal federal laws mandating “gun free zones” around schools, according to bill sponsor, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX).

    3,970 Support | 185 Oppose

  • HR 538
    #32 PLEA Act

    To protect the Nation’s law enforcement officers by banning the Five-seveN Pistol and 5.7 x 28mm SS190, SS192, SS195LF, SS196, and SS197 cartridges, testing handguns and ammunition for capability to penetrate body armor, and prohibiting the manufacture, importation, sale, or purchase of such handguns or ammunition by civilians.

    143 Support | 4,051 Oppose

  • HR 575
    #31 Second Amendment Protection Act

    Would prohibit funding to the United Nations unless the President can certify that a United Nations treaty does not infringe on individual rights protected by the Constitution, according to bill sponsor, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX). 

    4,083 Support | 145 Oppose

  • HR 437
    #30 Assault Weapons Ban

    Would ban the future sale, transfer, manufacture and importation of 157 specific kinds of semi-automatic guns and impose the same restrictions on ammunition magazines that contain more than 10 rounds. Excludes 2,258 legitimate hunting and sporting rifles and shotguns by specific make and model, according to bill sponsor, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY).

    160 Support | 4,227 Oppose

  • S 815
    #29 Employment Non-Discrimination Act

    To prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This bill passed in the Senate on November 7, 2013 by a 64 to 32 vote, and is awaiting consideration by the House.

    233 Support | 4,178 Oppose

  • HR 227
    #28 Buyback Our Safety Act

    To establish a gun buyback grant program.

    134 Support | 4,292 Oppose

  • S 2
    #27 Sandy Hook Elementary School Violence Reduction Act

    To reduce violence and protect the citizens of the United States.

    169 Support | 4,357 Oppose

  • HR 25
    #26 Fair Tax Act

    Would repeal all Federal corporate and individual income taxes, payroll taxes, self-employment taxes, capital gains taxes, the death tax, and gift taxes – and replace them with a revenue-neutral personal consumption tax, according to bill sponsor, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA). 

    4,219 Support | 333 Oppose

  • HR 226
    #25 Support Assault Firearms Elimination and Reduction for our Streets Act

    To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow a credit against tax for surrendering to authorities certain assault weapons.

    143 Support | 4,488 Oppose

  • S 174
    #24 Ammunition Background Check Act

    To appropriately restrict sales of ammunition.

    187 Support | 4,769 Oppose

  • S 336
    #23 Marketplace Fairness Act

    Would give states the option to require the collection of sales and use taxes already owed under State law by out-of-state businesses, rather than rely on consumers to remit those taxes to the States—the method of tax collection to which they are now restricted, according to bill sponsor, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY).

    205 Support | 4,861 Oppose

  • HR 137
    #22 Fix Gun Checks Act

    To ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the national instant criminal background check system and require a background check for every firearm sale.

    522 Support | 4,595 Oppose

  • S 147
    #21 Common Sense Concealed Firearms Permit Act

    To establish minimum standards for States that allow the carrying of concealed firearms.

    215 Support | 5,017 Oppose

  • S 34
    #20 Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act

    To increase public safety by permitting the Attorney General to deny the transfer of firearms or the issuance of firearms and explosives licenses to known or suspected dangerous terrorists.

    390 Support | 4,842 Oppose

  • S 22
    #19 Gun Show Background Check Act

    To establish background check procedures for gun shows.

    442 Support | 5,049 Oppose

  • S 82
    #18 Separation of Powers Restoration & Second Amendment Protection Act

    To provide that any executive action infringing on the Second Amendment has no force or effect, and to prohibit the use of funds for certain purposes.

    5,728 Support | 243 Oppose

  • HR 410
    #17 Restore the Constitution Act

    To provide that any executive action infringing on the Second Amendment has no force or effect, and to prohibit the use of funds for certain purposes.

    5,914 Support | 263 Oppose

  • HR 499
    #16 Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act

    To decriminalize marijuana at the Federal level, to leave to the States a power to regulate marijuana that is similar to the power they have to regulate alcohol.

    5,824 Support | 420 Oppose

  • S 35
    #15 Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act

    To require face to face purchases of ammunition, to require licensing of ammunition dealers, and to require reporting regarding bulk purchases of ammunition.

    308 Support | 6,558 Oppose

  • S 33
    #14 Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act

    To prohibit the transfer or possession of large capacity ammunition feeding devices.

    324 Support | 6,863 Oppose

  • HR 65
    #13 Child Gun Safety and Gun Access Prevention Act

    Raising the age of legal handgun ownership to 21.

    514 Support | 7,193 Oppose

  • HR 21
    #12 NRA Members Gun Safety Act

    To provide for greater safety in the use of firearms.

    536 Support | 7,770 Oppose

  • HR 34
    #11 Blair Holt Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act

    To provide for the implementation of a system of licensing for purchasers of certain firearms and for a record of sale system for those firearms.

    362 Support | 8,402 Oppose

  • HR 141
    #10 Gun Show Loophole Closing Act

    To require criminal background checks on all firearms transactions occurring at gun shows.

    1,406 Support | 7,591 Oppose

  • HR 2682
    #9 Defund Obamacare Act

    To prohibit the funding of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

    9,365 Support | 307 Oppose

  • S 150
    #8 Assault Weapons Ban

    To regulate assault weapons, to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited.

    633 Support | 9,409 Oppose

  • HR 142
    #7 Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act

    To require face to face purchases of ammunition, to require licensing of ammunition dealers, and to require reporting regarding bulk purchases of ammunition.

    617 Support | 9,508 Oppose

  • HR 117
    #6 Handgun Licensing and Registration Act

    To provide for the mandatory licensing and registration of handguns.

    553 Support | 9,619 Oppose

  • HR 133
    #5 Citizens Protection Act

    To repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 and amendments to that Act.

    9,671 Support | 651 Oppose

  • HR 138
    #4 Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act

    To prohibit the transfer or possession of large capacity ammunition feeding devices.

    756 Support | 10,828 Oppose

  • S 744
    #3 Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act

    To provide for comprehensive immigration reform. This bill passed in the Senate on June 27, 2013 and is awaiting consideration by the House.

    1,385 Support | 10,212 Oppose

  • HJRes 15
    #2 Repealing the 22nd Amendment

    Proposing an amendment to the US Constitution to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President.

    151 Support | 12,984 Oppose

  • S 649
    #1 Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act

    To ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the national instant criminal background check system and require a background check for every firearm sale.

    304 Support | 14,110 Oppose

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Grand Bargain or Raw Deal?

Many elderly Americans are close enough to poverty’s edge that Social Security cuts of any size could push them over the brink.

— By Peter Hart

Peter Hart

Following the government shutdown drama, politicians in Washington appear hopelessly divided, according to conventional wisdom.

Fair enough. But there’s at least one area where many politicians from both of the major parties agree — and many of the TV talking heads and newspaper pontificators are with them, too. Social Security, they insist, “needs” to be cut.

For the last few years, after a major standoff, the usual Beltway pundits have been talking about something they like to call the “grand bargain.”

That sure sounds like a good thing. Who doesn’t love a bargain? Well, here’s the question you should ask yourself: Who’s actually getting one? It’s more likely than not that the savings aren’t headed your way.

Fixing Social Security, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

In Washington-speak, a “grand bargain” means some kind of budget deal where everyone is forced to give a little in order to reduce the budget deficit and tackle the country’s debt. To get Republicans to agree to raise more revenue (i.e., taxes), Democrats have to agree to some spending cuts.

As with most things, the devil’s in the details. There’s essentially unanimous Republican opposition to raising taxes on the wealthy. That makes authentic bargaining tough. And on the other side, the cuts are intended for programs like Medicare and Social Security, key elements of the safety net and perhaps the most popular government spending programs.

Medicare and Social Security are remarkably successful in helping keep seniors and others in need out of poverty. But “households relying on (Social Security) for a significant share of their income often live dangerously close to the poverty line,” according to the Economic Policy Institute. That means cuts of any kind could jeopardize their living standards.

Pundits and journalists cheer this talk of a “bargain,” and they praise politicians — especially Democrats — who have the “courage” to back such cuts.

For the past few decades, politicians and pundits have ginned up a “crisis” over Social Security’s finances. At this point, you can say almost anything about Social Security and get away with it.

Right now, yet another wave of scare stories about Social Security has soaked the media. 60 Minutes recently did a segment about the allegedly rampant fraud in the Social Security disability system. But back in reality, disability benefits are difficult to collect, and the program is watched very closely for signs of cheating.

The Washington Post ran a big story about the problem of people collecting benefits for their deceased loved ones. Front-page news in the nation’s capital — but if you read closely, you would discover that we’re talking about 0.006 percent of the checks.

So long as the media can keep churning out this misleadingly alarmist Social Security coverage, more politicians will talk up the idea of “fixing” the program. When you hear them say this, you should know that they mean cutting benefits.

Be on the lookout: When the TV talking heads and politicians all agree that it’s time to strike a “grand bargain” to “protect” or “fix” Social Security, check the fine print. Someone’s getting a bargain, but it’s probably not you.


Peter Hart is the activism director of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. www.fair.orgCartoon Credit:  Fixing Social Security, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib.   Distributed via OtherWords. (OtherWords.org)

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An Endangered Species Up in Arms

The number of students taking humanities courses is plummeting, and financing for liberal arts education is being tea-partied to death.

— by Donald Kaul

Donald Kaul

As many of you already have intuited, I don’t know everything. Nobody does, I suppose. More importantly, I don’t know everything about anything.

I’m what used to be called “a generalist,” someone whose knowledge in any direction is a mile wide and a quarter-inch deep.

Sad to say, we generalists are an endangered species.

Everywhere, the pressure is on young people to specialize. They’re also being urged to concentrate on the so-called STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering, and math. Why? These are disciplines that can predictably get you a job upon graduating from college.

A Florida task force last year went so far as to suggest that college courses in the humanities — literature, history, the social sciences, the arts — be made more expensive than STEM courses just to steer students away from them.

Kaul-Humanities-tom.belteThis idea has the humanities people up in arms.

Duke University President Richard Brodhead headed a study group of educators, business leaders, artists, and politicians that recently delivered a report to Congress decrying the attitude that studying the humanities and social sciences is a waste of time.

“This facile negativism forgets that many of the country’s most successful and creative people had exactly this kind of education,” he said.

The report comes at a time not when hordes of students are crowding into “wasteful” humanities classes, but rather when attendance in them is plummeting and financing for liberal arts education is being tea-partied to death.

Our higher education system is forgetting what education is supposed to do in the first place.

I entered college as an engineering student — a mistake on the order of Napoleon’s decision to invade Russia. I was lucky though. I made a last-minute escape to the English department where I was not only allowed to read novels for fun but also find out about things I was actually interested in — history, psychology, architecture, and the arts.

I hasten to add that I had no idea what I was going to do with this information. Neither did my father, a tool and die maker who wanted me to join one of the more practical professions — preferably dentistry. He wanted me to make a living without being in danger of killing someone.

That didn’t appeal to me either. Like many students (particularly English majors) of the 1950s, I wasn’t going to school merely to learn a trade. I was out to become an educated person — well-read, witty, sophisticated — like someone in a Noel Coward play.

Unfortunately, Coward never tells you how his people earn a living. When I graduated with my English degree firmly in hand I had no answer for my father’s question: “What now, bigshot?”

Thus, I drifted into journalism. It wasn’t an unfamiliar story in the newspaper business of the time. Back then, it served as a refuge for failed novelists, playwrights, and other flotsam bearing a liberal education.

The thing is, it worked out fine for me. I led an interesting life, had a lot of fun, and earned enough to raise a family in modest comfort. Moreover, at one time or another, I pretty much put to use everything I had learned in college.

And that’s my point — a point these STEM people miss — there’s nothing wrong with learning for its own sake. Knowledge doesn’t go to waste. It comes in handy somewhere along the line, sometimes in the most unlikely places.

I realize that the world now is a very different place from the one I grew up in. Back then, you didn’t have to be a hedge fund manager to work your way through school for one thing. But another difference is that workers today change jobs, even professions, four, five, or six times during their working lives.

Specialists who know only one thing might be left out in the cold when circumstances change. Generalists have the intellectual tools to adapt.

Actually, we’d be better off if more of our politicians had read a few more good novels. Or if perhaps they’d written a poem or two.

Knowing something is always better than knowing nothing.


OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. OtherWords.org  Photo credit to Tom Belte/Flickr

Where Would We Be Without Social Security?

Congress must ensure that the promise of Social Security and Medicare remains fully funded.

By Jo Comerford

Jo Comerford is the executive director of the National Priorities Project

Nearly every single American is intimately connected with the earned benefits of Social Security and Medicare — as either a contributor, a recipient, or both.

In fact, a recent national poll indicated nearly 90% of us favor taking strong measures to preserve the long-term stability of both programs. So a recent report released by the trustees of Social Security and Medicare may have caused you to take notice and provoked you to think about — or tell — your stories. Here are a few I’d like to share:

NPP-SocSecMedicare-DonkeyHotey

Melissa M. of Stinson Beach, California, talked about her father-in-law, 60 years old, working for low wages six or seven days each week for 40 years as a manager of a nearby cattle ranch. “The one thing that keeps him going is the letter he gets from the Social Security Administration,” she said. It “tells him how much he has earned in Social Security.”

Allen J. of Portland, Oregon, remarked that he was “a liver transplant survivor because of Medicare.” Martin L. of Cortland, New York, said he was born with a heart defect that required open-heart surgery to replace it. Without Medicare, Martin writes, he “would have no life and no future.”

Alton S. of Lakeland, Florida, was planting a citrus tree when he felt a pain in his lower abdomen. That night, an emergency room doctor told him he had a ruptured diverticulum. Alton remembers overhearing someone say, “We better get this guy to surgery or he’s dead meat.” A combination of his private insurance and Medicare paid for a series of successful surgeries. Looking back, Alton believes Medicare is one of the most “humane and caring arms of our government.”

With a 33-year career as a nurse, Janet P. of Cotati, California, noted that she worked to keep her “clients stable enough to stay out of the hospital.” Every time Medicare or Social Security policy changes, her clients’ lives are affected. Even as she hustles for others, Janet is aware that she needs to think about her own future.

“My savings was in my house, but I lost that,” she said. “I’m older now…getting back that nest egg gets harder and harder, and I’m not confident that either Social Security or Medicare will be there for me when I’m not able to work full-time.”

These are Melissa, Allen, Martin, Alton, and Janet’s stories. Like millions of their neighbors, Social Security and Medicare keep them going, offering them a humane and caring future.

Congress must take sound action to ensure that the promise of both these programs remains fully funded for coming generations. If our elected officials do nothing, after 2026, the government will be able to pay approximately 87% of projected Medicare costs and, after 2033, roughly 75 percent of anticipated Social Security benefits.

The trustees offer us a sobering reminder, not a crazed alarm as some fear. Luckily there are many smart actions Congress can take in response, starting with raising the payroll tax cap and fully implementing the Affordable Care Act. These actions are within our reach and would have a dramatic and positive impact on the well-being of both programs.

Our elected officials need to hear from all of us today. It’s our budget and our future. Let’s weigh in.


Jo Comerford is the executive director of the National Priorities Project. You can find these stories and more by visiting the NPP’s Faces of the Federal Budget website. NationalPriorities.org/us/   Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)  Photo credit to DonkeyHotey/Flickr