Most Americans know very little, if anything, about the roughly 550 pieces of legislation the U.S. Congress passes every year. That's because most of the bills don't have a profound impact on the country. But a handful do. The leading newspaper of record on Capitol Hill, Roll Call, marks its 50th anniversary June 16th by publishing a list of what it calls the Top Ten Congressional Bills of the past half-century.
They include the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Federal Highway Act of 1956, and amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.
Roll Call's deputy editor Louis Jacobson says the Civil Rights Act was important because it ended formal discrimination against Black Americans and changed American society. He says the Voting Rights Act brought Black voters into the electorate. It also contributed to the shift to the right and the ascendency of the Republican Party in American politics.
Mr. Jacobson says the Federal Highway Act of 1956 not only changed and expanded the U.S. economy, it also led to suburbanization, the decline of cities, and new priorities in foreign affairs. The bill made the car so central to American life, he says, that the U.S. leaders need to develop a strong foreign policy in the Middle East because of oil.
Amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 changed the character of the country, according to Mr. Jacobson, by making it more diverse. Before 1965, most immigrants came from Europe. After this bill, more people came from Asia and Africa.
For more on Roll Call's Top Ten list of congressional bills with deputy editor Louis Jacobson, .