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The Difficulties of Federal Legislation and How It Protects the Will of the People

Why is it hard to pass a federal law, even when there are compelling reasons to do so? Professor Kurt Lash outlines some of the steps involved in proposing a bill, amending a bill, and getting a bill passed. The federal Constitutional system was deliberately crafted to make the process arduous. The process forces both parts of Congress to engage in research to ensure that the proposed law is constitutionally sound and good policy. https://youtube.com/watch?v=U7-Vh4_Ljbg


When we were young, we would watch Saturday morning cartoons and learn about how bills were passed and how they made it. How they had to be passed by the House and then passed by the Senate. "I'm just a bill, and I'm here on a hill." It was a lovely, a lovely presentation of how laws actually get enacted, both on a state level and on a federal level. Although it made us smile at the time, anyone who's actually participated in the process knows that sometimes there's nothing to smile about at all. It can be exceedingly difficult just to get the attention of your local school board to pass a particular policy and maybe the local zoning commission. Even harder to get the attention of your state government. When we're talking about the federal government, now you're dealing with just an enormous institution that has so many different committees writing so many different reports. Getting their attention is difficult enough, but then you've got to get their attention to the point of actually getting a majority of them to pass a particular bill. Then it has to go to the other House. They may have a similar bill, but then you're going to have to reconcile the two bills. Then it's going to go to the President. Maybe the President's going to support it, maybe the President's going to veto it. Then after all of that, if it ultimately gets enacted, it's going to have to face adjudication. You might have the courts invalidating part of it or invalidating all of it, and Congress then would have to go back to the drawing board. Each one of these hurdles is a gate, a gate against legislation. Something which actually makes it fairly difficult for legislation to be passed. From one perspective, that can be a problem. There might be some kind of pressing issue that actually requires some type of immediate attention, and it can take some time to go through the arduous process of passing a bill on a state level and even more arduous, of course, to go through checks and balances on the federal level. Of course, it drives a conversation. By making it something that has to be announced in one House and then passed by the coordinate House of government, you're giving the opposition time to coordinate their opposition, to craft arguments against this particular policy, whether it involve anything from military bills to healthcare. That forces the promoters to do their homework, to actually come up with reasonable constitutional arguments. To make sure that whatever they're announcing is something to be put into operation is something that can work and actually advance that particular policy. This arduous task of forced deliberation on both the committee level, which is not required by the Constitution but which has been created by the houses of government themselves. Then, of course, deliberation in the chambers, both the House and the Senate, which is required by the Constitution. That forces careful lawmaking. It forces everyone to take their job seriously, and it makes it more likely that these bills will be workable and constitutional.

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