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Congress renews undetectable gun ban for decade

10-year undetectable gun ban renewed

Narrowly beating a midnight deadline, Congress voted Monday to renew an expiring ban on plastic firearms that can evade airport detection machines. But Republicans blocked an effort to toughen the restrictions – the latest defeat for gun-control forces in the year since the grade school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

President Obama signed the law before midnight, using an auto pen as he traveled to Africa for ceremonies honoring the late South African President Nelson Mandela.

By voice vote, the Senate gave final congressional approval to a 10-year extension of the prohibition against guns that can slip past metal detectors and X-ray machines.

The House voted last week for an identical decade-long renewal of the ban.

2013 Congress beats least-productive record

Business Roundtable lobbyists wanted 2013 to be the year lawmakers, free of immediate election pressures, would revamp U.S. immigration policy, pass a debt-lowering budget and expedite a pair of trade deals.

Instead, Congress is on pace to have its least productive year ever, with just 56 pieces of legislation signed into law so far. The former record low, reached in 1995, was 88 new laws.

“The major issues that we think are necessary to jump- start the American economy continue to languish,” said Bill Miller, top lobbyist for a group that represents chief executives of companies such as Walmart and Microsoft.

As the business agenda lagged, Congress this year completed work on measures such as one that speeds disabled veterans through airport security and another that converts some federal land in Wyoming into a local shooting range.

Bigger-ticket items – expanding skilled-worker visas sought by technology companies, restoring defense spending for weapons systems and lowering tax rates – didn’t come to a vote in both chambers.

U.S. ban on high-risk bank trades approved

U.S. regulators have taken a major step toward reining in high-risk trading on Wall Street, banning the largest banks from trading for their own profit in most cases.

It took three years to write and adopt the Volcker Rule, one of the most critical changes to financial laws in the wake of the 2008 banking crisis.

The final version is stricter than many had expected.

Its goal is to reduce the kind of trades that nearly toppled the financial system five years ago and required taxpayer-funded bailouts.

Monitor wire reports

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