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In Introducing Bills, Maloney Is Tops

About 6,000 bills are introduced in the House each legislative session, and in a class of 435, someone has to be valedictorian.

Leading the House this session is Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D), who represents New York’s bustling Upper East Side. She said her mélange of bills is inspired by her constituents, who include corporate types in midtown Manhattan and workers in the Garment District. Indeed, Maloney introduced legislation last year to suspend duty on stick and golf umbrellas to help the industry in her district.

“I have a lot of passions. I have a lot of issues,” Maloney said, thrilled to be the legislative leader.

Maloney is chairwoman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit. She has used her perch on the exclusive committee to push through legislation to expand overdraft protection and to create a toll-free number for consumers to call federal banking regulators with questions. Five of Maloney’s 70 bills have passed the House this session.

Scattered throughout Maloney’s litany of financial bills are a handful of proposals on women’s issues. Her bill to create an Office of Women’s Health within the Health and Human Services Department is lagging in the Energy and Commerce Committee. Another bill, to celebrate the legacy of Susan B. Anthony on the third Monday in February, has two co-sponsors but has yet to be taken up by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee since its introduction in February 2007.

“I see legislation as a way to study ideas. You can have an idea, and if you legislate it, you find out what people think about it,” Maloney said.

Maloney’s showing this session puts her just ahead of a fellow New York Democrat, Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, who has the second-highest total with 65 bills. Neither is close to reaching the record set by former Rep. Claude Pepper (D-Fla.), who introduced 309 bills in the 94th Congress.

Lawmakers introduce bills for many reasons, from personal to ideological. They might benefit a contributor, a neighbor, an industry or just about everyone.

“It’s extremely easy to introduce a piece of legislation,” Deputy House Historian Fred Beuttler said. “You don’t need your party’s permission. All you have to do is drop the bill.”

Of the 199 Republicans in the House, the libertarian-minded Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) reigns as his party’s legislation leader with 66 bills. Paul, whose 2008 presidential campaign slogan was “The Taxpayers’ Best Friend,” said there is no contradiction between prolific legislating and a passion for limited government.

“It may sound strange to some, but it’s not,” he said. “The proper function is to legislate to limit the government. You change the system by being elected, introducing legislation and convincing other people.”

This session, Paul has introduced bills to abolish the personal income, estate and gift taxes, to give tax credits to teachers, police officers and firefighters, and to “restore to taxpayers awareness of the true cost of government” by requiring employers to make their income taxes public.

The same day he launched his White House exploratory committee in January 2007, Paul filed a bill to repeal the Military Selective Service Act, which requires men 18 to 65 to register with the draft board. He introduced a prolific 11 pieces of legislation that month and filed 10 more before declaring his presidential candidacy in March.

Rep. Dan Burton (Ind.) currently is second among Republicans with 58.

Paul is by far the most legislatively productive Member doubling as a presidential candidate since 1992, when then-Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.) introduced 42 bills before dropping her White House bid. This year, Republican presidential hopefuls Reps. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) and Duncan Hunter (Calif.) introduced 20 and 12 pieces of legislation, respectively, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced 12 bills, despite his broad platform that included a pledge to create a Department of Peace and expand entitlement programs.

“The bills I’ve introduced are for the same things I’ve been talking about for the last 30 years,” said Paul. “Hopefully, someone around here listened.”

If floor action is any indication, Paul’s outlook is not good. None of his 66 bills have passed the House this year.

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