Lawmakers did something Thursday that has seemed nearly impossible all Congress: send a bipartisan bill to the president’s desk.
The Senate passed patent reform legislation on a 89-9 vote, and in doing so, the chamber approved the first overhaul of the nation’s patent system in 60 years. The House sent its bill to the Senate earlier this summer.
President Barack Obama during the summer included the patent overhaul in a list of bills he said would help spur job growth and urged Congress to pass it quickly.
“This bill is an opportunity to show the American people that Democrats and Republicans can come together to enact meaningful legislation for the American people,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement moments before the vote. “This bill is important for our economy. It’s important for job creation. It’s a product of bipartisan and bicameral collaboration. It’s the way our system is supposed to work.”
The measure will provide additional resources to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to reduce its backlog of nearly 700,000 patent applications and to reduce fees for patent applications for small businesses to encourage a wider economic diversity of innovators. It also creates greater transparency and streamlines the patent review process to reduce the number of court challenges and allows a third party to include information about prior submissions to patent examiners.
In passing the bill, lawmakers touted the job-creation potential for the reformed rules. The Senate shot down three amendments — provisions from Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) — before final passage. Any amendment to the bill would have jeopardized it from becoming law as it would have required additional House approval.
The Republican House majority and Senate Democratic majority have agreed to send only 29 bills to Obama this year, compared with 62 at a similar point in 2009.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks with reporters following a vote in the Senate. Gillibrand’s proposal to remove military commanders from the process of reviewing sexual-assault cases was left out of the bicameral deal on the defense authorization bill, but the senator is pushing for a vote on her plan soon.
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.