The Most Important Pieces of Legislation the US Government Must Pass Every Year
As the legislative branch of the government, the United States Congress is responsible for passing laws and regulations that shape the country's future.
There are several key pieces of legislation that must be passed each year to maintain the proper functioning of the country, ensure that the government is operating effectively, and address the most pressing issues facing the nation.
The budget is a crucial piece of legislation that outlines the government's spending priorities for the year. It includes both mandatory spending, such as programs like Social Security and Medicare, and discretionary spending, such as defense and education programs.
The budget is critical because it determines how much money the government can spend on different initiatives and programs. Without a budget, the government would be unable to fund many vital programs and initiatives, which leads to a government shutdown.
Examples of Budget Legislation:
- The Budget and Accounting Transparency Act of 2014: This bill was passed in 2014 and requires the CBO to provide cost estimates for direct loans and loan guarantees made by the federal government.
- The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017: This bill was passed in December 2017 and overhauled the tax code, including changes to individual and corporate tax rates, deductions, and exemptions.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019: This bill was passed in August 2019 and increased spending caps for discretionary spending and suspended the debt limit until July 31, 2021.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021: This bill was passed in December 2020 and provided $1.4 trillion in funding for government programs, including COVID-19 relief measures, education, and defense.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: This bill was passed in March 2021 and provided $1.9 trillion in funding for COVID-19 relief measures, including stimulus payments, unemployment benefits, and aid to small businesses.
The Defense Authorization Act authorizes the Department of Defense's activities and operations for the upcoming fiscal year. It outlines the budget and spending priorities for the military and sets policies for national defense.
The Defense Authorization Act is important because it ensures that the military has the necessary resources to carry out its missions and protect the country. It also provides for the welfare of service members and their families, including pay raises and benefits.
Examples of Defense Authorization Acts:
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018: This bill authorizes the Department of Defense's activities and operations for fiscal year 2018. It includes provisions for military personnel, weapons systems, and military construction projects.
John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019: This bill authorizes the Department of Defense's activities and operations for fiscal year 2019. It includes provisions for military personnel, weapons systems, and military construction projects.
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020: This bill authorizes the Department of Defense's activities and operations for fiscal year 2020. It includes provisions for military personnel, weapons systems, and military construction projects.
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021: This bill authorizes the Department of Defense's activities and operations for fiscal year 2021. It includes provisions for military personnel, weapons systems, and military construction projects.
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022: This bill authorizes the Department of Defense's activities and operations for fiscal year 2022. It includes provisions for military personnel, weapons systems, and military construction projects.
There are twelve appropriations bills that must be passed each year, each one covering a specific area of government spending. These bills cover everything from education and healthcare to defense and homeland security.
The appropriations process can be lengthy and complicated, with negotiations and compromises often required to reach a final agreement. However, passing appropriations is an important process because it ensures that the government is using taxpayer dollars effectively and efficiently.
Without appropriations bills, many vital programs and initiatives could be left unfunded. The appropriations process is critical to ensuring that the government can meet the needs of its citizens and carry out its responsibilities effectively.
Examples of Appropriations Bills:
Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019: This bill provided funding for the federal government for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years, and raised spending caps for defense and non-defense spending. It also included provisions for healthcare, education, and infrastructure spending.
Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2022: This bill provided funding for energy and water-related programs and projects for the 2022 fiscal year, including funding for renewable energy research and infrastructure improvements.
Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2022: This bill provided funding for the Department of Defense for the 2022 fiscal year, including provisions for military personnel, weapons systems, and construction projects.
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2022: This bill provided funding for agricultural and rural development programs, as well as the Food and Drug Administration, for the 2022 fiscal year. It included provisions for nutrition assistance programs, research funding, and rural infrastructure improvements.
The US government relies on tax revenue to fund many of its programs and services. Each year, Congress must pass tax legislation to set tax rates, deductions, and other policies related to federal taxation. By setting tax policies, the government can fund its operations, incentivize certain behaviors, and influence economic growth and stability.
Tax legislation can be complex, and it often involves a great deal of debate and negotiation. Both political parties may have different priorities and goals for tax policy, leading to disagreement and compromise. In recent years, tax legislation has become particularly contentious, with debates over issues such as tax rates for high-income individuals, deductions for charitable donations, and the treatment of foreign income.
Examples of Tax Legislation:
Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017: This tax legislation, signed into law by President Trump in December 2017, lowered tax rates for individuals and corporations, increased the standard deduction, and eliminated or limited many deductions. It also made changes to the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax.
CARES Act of 2020: While primarily focused on providing relief for individuals and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, this legislation also included several tax provisions. These included a temporary suspension of required minimum distributions from retirement accounts and an expansion of charitable deduction limits.
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021: This legislation, passed in December 2020, included several tax provisions in addition to its appropriations measures. These included extensions of several expiring tax provisions, changes to the treatment of business meals, and expanded tax credits for certain businesses.
American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: This legislation, signed into law in March 2021, included several tax provisions related to pandemic relief. These included a child tax credit expansion, a tax credit for COBRA health insurance premiums, and tax exemptions for some student loan forgiveness programs.
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021: While primarily focused on funding infrastructure projects, this legislation also includes several tax provisions. These include increased funding for the IRS to improve tax enforcement and changes to the treatment of cryptocurrency transactions.
Infrastructure legislation is the laws and regulations related to the development and maintenance of the physical and organizational structures that support society. This includes everything from roads and bridges to water and energy systems.
Infrastructure legislation is critical because it directly impacts the functioning of society and the economy. For example, without adequate roads and bridges, transportation and commerce can be severely impacted. Similarly, without reliable and efficient energy systems, homes and businesses may not have access to the power they need to function.
Each year, Congress must pass infrastructure legislation to fund new projects, maintain existing infrastructure, and address pressing issues related to infrastructure. This legislation may involve partnerships between the government and private sector organizations, such as construction firms and utility companies.
Just like tax legislation, in recent years, infrastructure legislation has become particularly contentious, with debates over issues such as funding for public transportation, investments in renewable energy, and the maintenance of aging infrastructure.
By investing in infrastructure, the government can support economic growth and development, enhance public safety and health, and improve the quality of life for individuals and communities.
Examples of Infrastructure Legislation:
Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) of 2015: This bill authorized funding for surface transportation programs, including highway, transit, and rail programs, for fiscal years 2016 through 2020.
Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2018: This bill authorized funding for water resource projects and programs, including flood control, navigation, and ecosystem restoration, for fiscal years 2019 through 2023.
America's Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) of 2018: This bill authorized funding for water infrastructure projects and programs, including drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater management, for fiscal years 2019 through 2023.
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021: This bill authorized funding for a wide range of infrastructure projects and programs, including roads and bridges, public transit, broadband internet, and clean energy, among others.
Build Back Better Act of 2021: This bill includes significant investments in infrastructure, including funding for roads and bridges, public transit, electric vehicle charging stations, clean energy, and affordable housing, among other initiatives.
Healthcare legislation refers to laws and regulations related to providing and financing medical care for individuals and communities. This is everything from insurance coverage and drug pricing to public health initiatives and medical research.
Each year, Congress must pass healthcare legislation to fund healthcare programs, expand access to healthcare, and address pressing issues related to healthcare. This legislation may also involve partnerships between the government and private sector organizations, such as insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Healthcare legislation can be complex as both political parties have different priorities and goals for healthcare policy, leading to disagreement and compromise.
In recent years, healthcare legislation has become particularly contentious (notice a theme?), with debates over issues such as the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid funding, and prescription drug pricing.
By investing in healthcare, the government can promote public health, reduce healthcare costs, and ensure that all individuals have access to the care they need.
Examples of Healthcare Legislation:
- Mental Health Reform Act of 2016: This bill addressed the need for improved mental healthcare in the United States by increasing access to treatment and providing funding for research and prevention programs.
- Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010: This landmark legislation expanded access to healthcare by creating new insurance marketplaces and implementing regulations on insurance providers. It also provided subsidies to help individuals and families afford healthcare coverage.
Medicare for All Act of 2019: This bill proposed a single-payer healthcare system that would provide universal coverage for all Americans. It would have expanded the existing Medicare program to cover all medical services, including vision, dental, and long-term care.
Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019: This bill aimed to lower prescription drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and capping out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare beneficiaries.
American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: This bill provides significant funding for COVID-19 relief efforts, including vaccine distribution, healthcare infrastructure, and expanded healthcare coverage.
Environmental legislation refers to the laws and regulations related to the protection and conservation of natural resources and the environment. This includes everything from air and water quality standards to regulations governing the use of natural resources and the protection of endangered species.
Environmental legislation helps to protect the health and well-being of individuals and communities, as well as the natural resources and ecosystems that support our planet's biodiversity and sustainability.
Each year, Congress must pass environmental legislation to address pressing environmental concerns and promote conservation efforts. This legislation may involve measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect wildlife habitats, and promote renewable energy sources.
Examples of Environmental Legislation:
The Energy Policy Act of 2005: This legislation promotes the development of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, and clean coal technology.
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007: This legislation aims to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil and increase the use of renewable energy sources, such as biofuels and wind power.
The Paris Agreement (2015): This international agreement aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (2016): This legislation updates the Toxic Substances Control Act and requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to evaluate and regulate chemicals used in consumer products.
The Great American Outdoors Act (2020): This legislation provides funding to address deferred maintenance and repairs in national parks and other public lands, as well as permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect natural areas and wildlife habitats.
The Farm Bill
The Farm Bill, a comprehensive piece of legislation that is passed every five years by the United States Congress, plays a crucial role in shaping the nation's agricultural policy. lts components encompass a wide range of provisions and programs that impact various aspects of farming, rural development, food assistance, and conservation.
These components include agricultural subsidies, conservation programs, food assistance programs, crop insurance, rural development initiatives, research and innovation provisions, and trade and international programs.
Examples of the legislation passed in the Farm Bill:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, 1964): Formerly known as food stamps, this program is a critical component of the Farm Bill and provides nutrition assistance to low-income individuals and families. It helps ensure access to healthy food and addresses food insecurity in the United States.
Federal Crop Insurance Act of 1980: Formalized as a program in the Federal Crop Insurance Act of 1980, crop insurance has been included in various iterations of the Farm Bill and has undergone updates and modifications over the years. It serves as a risk management tool for farmers, protecting against crop losses due to weather events, pests, or other natural disasters.
- Conservation Reserve Program (1985): This program provides financial incentives to farmers to convert highly erodible or environmentally sensitive land into conservation practices, such as grasslands, wetlands, and wildlife habitats. It aims to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat.
- Agricultural Market Transition Act (1996): This program, also known as "Freedom to Farm," was aimed to transition the agricultural industry from a system of direct payments and price supports to a more market-oriented approach. It provided subsidies based on historical production levels and gradually phased out direct payments.
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