Legislative Scrutiny in the United States: Dynamic, Whole-stream Revision

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Taylor & Francis




Legislative drafting in the United States Congress is a dynamic process with many actors working to revise both a bill’s policy and language. Rather than a central drafting office or government agency responsible for drafting bills, legislative language and amendments come from many sources: Congressional committee staff, the House and Senate Offices of Legislative Counsel, special interest lobbyists, and executive agencies. The hope is that bills become stronger and better drafted as it moves through the process; but that is not always the case. In addition, Congress still does not use a single standard drafting style. Still, there have been improvements in recent decades. For example, the House of Representatives developed a preferred drafting style and created a manual to guide drafters. However, Congress can and should do more to improve legislative quality. In this article I suggest several reforms: empowering the committee chairs to not just guide legislation through Congress, but promote better quality legislation; requiring greater drafting style standardisation; creating new materials and trainings to assist legislative actors, particularly committee staff, to recognise defective drafting and appreciate the value of careful drafting practices; and creating a advisory commission that will bring together key drafting participants to propose further reforms.

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