Here's What Congress Actually Accomplished This Year
Six of the weirdest laws the 113th Congress has approved so far.
Dec. 3, 2013 -- intro: Congress' numbers are bad on all fronts. In addition to the most recent Gallup poll that put public approval of Capitol Hill at just 9 percent, Congress is poised to pass the fewest number of laws in 66 years.
As the last month of the year begins, Congress has passed fewer than 60 new laws since January.
Some of them -- such as increasing relief after Hurricane Sandy, reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, and maintaining military pay during the shutdown -- were crucial. But other laws just...weren't.
Here are six of the more inconsequential laws passed so far by the 113th Congress:
quicklist:title:In Liberty We Catchtext: The same month that the gun reform bill failed in the Senate, Congress sent a bill to the president that dealt with an issue of somewhat questionable importance: "To specify the size of the precious-metal blanks that will be used in the production of the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins."
The coins are set to be released in 2014 and are curved like a baseball glove with the words "liberty" and "in God we trust" printed on one side. The legislative branch amended the original bill for the coins "by striking 'have' and inserting 'be struck on a planchet having a'" in two locations.
quicklist:title:What's In A Name?text: One of the few matters able to gain bipartisan support in 2013 dealt with naming various buildings, bridges, and even a tax code.
Thanks to a bill sponsored by New Hampshire Rep. Ann Kuster, a Democrat, the air traffic control center of Nashua, N.H., will now be known as the "Patricia Clark Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center" in honor of Patricia Clark for her 50 years (and counting) of service to the center.
But Clark wasn't alone in her recognition from the 113th Congress. They also dubbed the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge on Interstate 70 in St. Louis, the Douglas A. Munro Coast Guard Headquarters Building in D.C., and the C.W. Bill Young Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Florida.
quicklist:title:Former Senator Gets Her Own Section Of The IRS Codetext: But, with all due respect to Clark and her cohorts, only one person this year was lucky enough to have a tax code named after her: former Republican Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
In July, section 219(c) of the Internal Revenue Code was officially renamed the Kay Bailey Hutchison Spousal IRA after one of the section's authors.
The section increased the annual amount that stay-at-home mothers were able to contribute to their IRAs, and it was a great achievement for Hutchison during her time in the Senate, partially due to her personal experience with that particular tax code.
"[The bill] came from an experience I had when I opened an IRA as a single woman. When I married and was not working, I was unable to make a full contribution because the law did not allow spouses who work inside the home the opportunity to establish full IRAs," Hutchison said when the bill passed. "Every working person or homemaker spouse should have the equal opportunity to establish retirement security through an Individual Retirement Account."
Hutchison retired from government in 2012 after a failed bid for governor, and her seat was filled by Tea Party Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. The bill to honor her was one of the greatest bipartisan movements of the year for Congress.
quicklist:title:Minutemen Missile National Site Gets More Parkingtext: While immigration advocates may be less than impressed with the progress Congress has made for them, and those proposing tough immigration laws were also unhappy, the state of South Dakota can rest assured that their Minutemen Missile National Historic Site will soon include additional parking space.
In September, President Obama signed the Congress-approved grant of "approximately 25 acres of land within the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, located north of exit 131 on Interstate 90" to the historical site for a visitors' center and administrative building--as well as another three acres for the visitors' parking lot.
quicklist:title:Mind the 'Bean Field Property' text: The Senate started this bill, signed in September, to properly address a 67-acres parcel of land in Mississippi designated as "the bean field property."
According to the bill, "The deed of conveyance to the parcel of land that is located southeast of U.S. Route 61/84 and which is commonly known as the `bean field property' shall reserve an easement to the United States restricting the use of the parcel to only those uses which are compatible with the Natchez Trace Parkway."
Glad we got that one of out of the way, Congress.
quicklist:title:Wyomans Get To Keep On Aimingtext: Gun legislation remains one of the most divisive topics throughout government, but regulars of the Powell Shooting Range in Wyoming provided common ground on a gun bill.
One September law passed through Congress properly conveyed approximately 322 acres of land to the gun club and required that the land be only used as a shooting range or "for any other public purpose."