This story has been updated.
Turns out the "do-nothing Congress" managed to do a fair about of something this year.
Thanks to a final flurry of activity during the lame-duck session after the midterm elections, lawmakers passed dozens more bills and nonbinding resolutions to push the 113th Session of Congress just ahead of the previous session in terms of productivity. All of the last-minute work means that the two-year period that adjourned this week cannot be referred to as the "least productive" session in modern history.
GovTrack, a nonpartisan outfit doing more than any other outside group to track the work of Congress, found that the 113th Session of Congress passed 297 new laws -- ahead of the 284 laws passed during the 112th Congress -- which for now retains its title as the least productive in modern history.
Senate Democratic aides, sensitive to accusations that the upper chamber shirked its duties under the leadership of Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), circulated C-SPAN numbers showing that the 113th session of the Senate had confirmed more judges (134) than any modern Congress since the 96th Session (years 1979 to 1981). The 113th Senate also confirmed 293 Executive Branch nominees this year, the most since 2010, according to Reid's office.
GovTrack's the House and Senate ran up the tally in the final days of the year: "In the first 23 months of the 113th Congress (2013-2014), Congress had sent just 201 bills to the President. Then in the first 16 days of December Congress passed another 96 bills."
Before leaving, Congress passed a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill, legislation setting Pentagon policy for next year and a short-term extension of about 50 tax breaks. But those were just three of the 130 bills and resolutions passed during the lame-duck session. Here are some others that passed either by roll call votes or unanimously:
Call it the bipartisan hit of the year -- and one that truly will make a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans. The "Achieving A Better Life Experience Act" enacts some of the most sweeping changes U.S. policy for people with disabilities since passage of the American with Disabilities Act.
Now, a disabled person can have a tax-advantaged savings account worth up to $100,000 without losing any federal benefits. The money can include friend and family contributions as well as what the disabled person earns. Withdrawals would not be taxed if used for education, housing, health care or other life-long expenses not covered by Medicaid and federal disability benefits.
The bill comes with a $2 billion price tag -- which required years of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans to find a way to pay for it. Ultimately, with 77 Senate cosponsors and 318 House cosponsors, it passed 404 to 17 in the House and 76 to 16 in the Senate as part of an extension of certain tax breaks.
Read more on the bill and the Virginia man who helped push for its passage, here.
Congress unanimously approved legislation allowing the Transportation Security Administration to charge only $5.60 per one-way trip and $11.20 per round trip for airport security fees. The limits were needed because supporters said that the TSA had misinterpreted an increase in fees authorized by the 2013 budget agreement.
Separately, the TSA will be required to establish a new aviation security advisory committee with up to 34 seats for various constituencies, including representatives of the airlines, air cargo companies, labor leaders, travel industry leaders and passenger advocates.
Congress agreed to give honorary U.S. citizenship to the Spanish military leader who served as colonial governor of Louisiana and Cuba. Most critically -- at least for Americans -- he also led Spanish troops against Britain during the Revolutionary War. He defeated the British at the Siege of Pensacola, part of the reason why the city's congressman, Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), pushed to give Galvez y Madrid the special honor. Congress has granted honorary citizenship to only seven other people, including Winston Churchill, Mother Theresa, and the Marquis de Lafayette.
Agents patrolling the northern and southern borders face some of the most complex work schedules. Under a bill passed quickly in the closing weeks, border officers now have three overtime options. They can work 100 hours per pay period -- about two weeks -- and receive an annual 25 percent pay boost; work 90 hours and receive an annual 12.5 increase; or work no overtime. Union officials and lawmakers agreed that the old system was being abused by desk-bound personnel.
The Treasury Department is now instructed to issue "up to 50,000 $5 gold coins, 350,000 $1 silver coins, and 300,000 half-dollar clad coins" to commemorate Boys Town, one of the largest nonprofit child care agencies in the country.
Congress easily approved legislation redrawing the boundaries of federally-protected coastal barriers in Florida, North Carolina, Rhode Island and South Carolina. The bill was sponsored by retiring Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.).
The legislation bars the importation or distribution of unmarked replica coins -- but doesn't make the actual sale of such coins illegal. The bill makes changes to the Hobby Protection Act, which regulated the production of imitation political items, paper money and coins. Rep. George Butterfield (D-N.C.) wrote the bill, which passed the House in July and unanimously passed the Senate this week.
Four cybersecurity-related bills passed Congress this fall -- great timing considering what's happened to Sony.
The Cybersecurity Act allows the Obama administration to start writing new voluntary standards for industry to use to prevent attacks on critical infrastructure like power grids. But the Commerce Department will have to consult affected industries before publishing the new standards. The National Cybersecurity Protection Act requires the Department of Homeland Security's National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center to start sharing information on potential threats with private companies, who bear the brunt of most cyber attacks.
The Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Act (see above) also includes language authorizing DHS to boost the pay and benefits of new recruits focused on cybersecurity issues. And the Cybersecurity Workforce Assessment Act requires the secretary of homeland security to determine how to bolster the cybersecurity workforce across the sprawling department.
It's now mandatory for police agencies receiving federal criminal justice funding to report the deaths of people who die in police custody or during an arrest. The reports must include information on gender and race.
Supporters believe the legislation will make it easier to track the deaths of people like Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two African American men killed in exchanges with police officers in recent months. A previous law requiring police agencies to report on shootings expired in 2006. The new law also requires federal law enforcement agencies to report such data to the attorney general, who will then be required to submit reports on the data to Congress every two years.
The Senate gave final passage this week to legislation allowing the Interior Department to sell electronic duck stamps, or the federal licenses required for duck hunting. Lawmakers in both parties from rural states with big hunting populations have been pushing to make it easier for hunters to obtain the necessary paperwork online.
Lawmakers voted to rename the federal courthouse in San Diego for John S. Rhoades, a former federal judge appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1985.
Lawmakers voted to rename an FBI facility in Vienna, Va. the "Michael D. Resnick Terrorist Screening Center." Resnick was a 20-year FBI veteran who died in February 2011 of cancer.
Here's a no-brainer: The Transportation Security Administration is now required to come up with a way to provide "expedited and dignified passenger screening services" for military veterans traveling on Honor Flight Network private charter flights, or with other nonprofit organization that help veterans fly to visit war memorials.
Lawmakers set the nation's intelligence policy for the next fiscal year. As The Post's Ellen Nakashima reported, a little-noticed provision in the bill puts restrictions on spy agencies’ ability to keep communications collected overseas. Critics say the change doesn't go far enough to protect Americans’ privacy.
The golfing legend will be the recipient of a Congressional Gold Medal, "in recognition of his service to the Nation in promoting excellence, good sportsmanship, and philanthropy."
Travelers along the Minnesota stretch of Interstate 35 will soon see signs bearing the name of the late Minnesota congressman, who died in May and once chaired the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Did you write anything on Oct. 20? Well, you should have. The Senate passed a resolution denoting it as a National Day on Writing.
The sweeping legislation sets Pentagon policy for the next year. Among many other things, the legislation authorizes $63.7 billion for ongoing overseas military operations and allows the Pentagon to move forward with its initiative to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels. There's also $1.3 billion for a new “counterterrorism partnership fund.” Troops get a 1 percent across-the-board pay raise but there's still a pay freeze for generals and senior officers. And tucked inside the massive bill: Language creating six national parks, expanding nine others and establishing a bipartisan commission to explore building a national women’s history museum.
The bill reauthorizes a 2007 law and authorizes new federal grants for the screening of potential congenital, genetic, and metabolic disorders in newborn babies. About one in every 300 newborn babies is born with a condition that be detected through screening before birth and such screening helps diagnose detectable conditions in about 12,000 babies each year, according to the legislation's sponsors. The bill delivered a rare legislative victory for Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), who was a lead sponsor but lost reelection. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) was the lead House sponsor.
The bill bars Nazi war criminals who had been kicked out of the United States from receiving Social Security payments. The legislation sailed through both chambers in less than two months after an Associated Press investigation exposed an embarrassing loophole.
The last thing the Senate did before leaving town was honor passenger pigeons. Seriously.
A Senate resolution honoring the 100th anniversary of their extinction passed unanimously late Tuesday before adjournment. The last passenger pigeon died at the Cincinnati Zoo in Sept. 1914. Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown (D) and Rob Portman (R) cosponsored the resolution, saying they did so to help "prioritize conservation and sustainability to help prevent other plants or animals from suffering the same fate as the passenger pigeon."
Congress voted to rename 23 post offices in its final days, including spots named for former Arizona Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater in Prescott, Ariz.; former Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.), in Long Beach, Calif.; former Rep. Mickey Leland (D-Tex.), in Houston; and Cynthia Jenkins, a former New York assemblywoman, in Queens.
There were several named for military veterans including Army Staff Sgt. Manuel V. Mendoza, a Medal of Honor recipient; Army Spc. Keith Erin Grace Jr., killed in Afghanistan in 2013; and Marine Col. M.J. 'Mac' Dube, a decorated war veteran.
The post office in Lompoc, Calif. will bear the name of Scott J. Williams, a federal Bureau of Prisons senior officer killed in the line of duty in April 1997.
The bill was designed to ease the regulatory burdens on smaller community banks and credit unions. Sponsored by Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), small bank holding companies with less than $1 billion in assets can now be regulated under the Small Bank Holding Company Statement. Supporters say the change will make it easier for smaller banks meet federal reporting requirements. The bill also allows interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts at credit unions to receive coverage from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The U.S. Federal Reserve, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Bar Association and national credit union groups supported the bill, according to King and Warner's offices.
The Senate approved a resolution marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, sponsored by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.).
It's now illegal to use or sell designer steroids. Congress passed a bill adding language to the Controlled Substances Act that bans any usually included in the definition of "anabolic steroid." It's a move designed partly to crack down on the spread of steroids, especially among professional athletes.
Separately, lawmakers reauthorized the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency through the end of fiscal 2020.
The Senate agreed unanimously in late November to a resolution honoring the life of the former five-term Boston mayor, who died on Oct. 30.
Congress voted to extend the charter of the independent federal panel through the end of fiscal 2015.
Congress approved legislation to punish a yet-unspecified number of Venezuelan government and security officials accused of rights abuses by freezing their U.S. assets and denying them visas. Support for the sanctions has grown ever since Venezuela jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López and arrested thousands of others in unrest that left 43 dead. Obama signed the bill Thursday.
Five Veterans Affairs buildings will get new names, including the VA medical center in Waco, Tex. It's now called the "Doris Miller Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center" for the first African American awarded the Navy Cross. He served aboard the U.S.S. West Virginia during the attack on Pearl Harbor and heroically saved several shipmates.
Both chambers unanimously reauthorized a VA program studying traumatic brain injuries. But the VA is now required to submit quarterly reports on the number of program participants and whether their families are satisfied with the program.
Separately, Congress passed the "Dignified Interment of Our Veterans Act," which requires the VA to report to Congress on plans to bury the unclaimed remains of military veterans in national cemeteries.
Officially named the "Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2014," for the late Illinois senator who had raised concerns about inadequate water supplies, the legislation tweaks current U.S. assistance programs that help developing countries with their water and sanitation programs. It also mandates that the limited amount of foreign aid given to water projects be "directed to the countries and communities most in need," according to its sponsors.
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Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that a bill strengthening the nation's freedom of information laws had passed Congress. The House and Senate passed competing measures but didn't agree on a final bill before adjourning.