- The bill has passed the House twice and come near to Senate approval in prior sessions of Congress.
- In the 113th Congress, the bill was re-introduced in the Senate by Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as S. 1458. In the House, Reps. Peter King (R-NY) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) circulated the bill for cosponsors.
- Re-introduction in the 114th (current) Congress is anticipated in early 2015.
Help Us Secure Cosponsorship Commitments
- Increasing the number of Senate and House Members cosponsorsing the bill will speed its passage.
- Securing cosponsorship commitments from Members sitting on these committees would be especially helpful: House Administration Committee, and Senate Rules and Administration Committee (the primary committees of jurisdiction); House Rules Committee; House Judiciary Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee; and the House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee. Please write to individual Member offices.
- Support from the Republican and Democratic leadership in both chambers would be very valuable.
- All cosponsorships, regardless of a Member's committee assignments, are valuable! Please write to your Representatives and Senators to request cosponsorship. Follow these links to find contact information for your Senators and House Members.
Example Letter to Congress
(fill in the info in <brackets>, and feel free to modify!)
Dear <Senator or Representative>,
As a <constituent / supporter / friend>, I write to urge you to cosponsor the Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act.
This bipartisan bill would create in Congress a centralized law clerk program analogous to the judicial clerkship program for new law graduates in their apprenticeship years. The Senate bill in the 113th Congress, S. 1458, was sponsored by Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Re-introduction in the 114th Congress is anticipated soon.
This bill is about improving Congress’s constitutional standing and the legal profession’s understanding of legislation.
Article I of the U.S. Constitution establishes Congress as the federal government’s “first branch” and the primary author of federal law. Congress is also the branch most accountable to the people. Of the three branches, however, Congress is by far the least influential on the constitutional perspective of the legal community that shapes public perceptions of the law, and interprets and implements the law Congress writes.
One major reason for this long-term slide in Congress’s constitutional standing is that Congress is relatively inaccessible to new lawyers in their formative first years. Congress alone among the three branches of government does not have an apprenticeship program designed for the legal profession’s future leaders, one that hires roughly a year in advance. Congress hires lawyers ad hoc, usually at the last second. In contrast, the annual flow of new lawyers into the apprenticeship programs of the courts and federal agencies has given the legal community a constantly renewed and formative on-the-job education in judicial and administrative lawmaking. A centralized congressional clerkship program would enable the nation’s Legislative Branch to take shaping the views of the legal community’s future leaders as seriously as do the Judicial and Executive Branches.
In addition to benefitting Congress over the long term, in the near term legislative law clerkships would benefit new lawyers. Most law today is legislated, or regulations based in legislation. Construing legislation is the bread and butter of legal practice, but is challenging due to the complexity of legislative process. As legislative law clerks, new lawyers would learn-by-doing legislation, to the benefit of their clients and colleagues throughout their careers.
Congress would also gain in the near term. Basic legal legislative work – statutory research, drafting, and analysis – often gets short shrift in busy Capitol Hill offices. Congress would benefit from the legislative focus and legal training of these temporary hires.
The Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act would establish 12 year-long law clerk positions, equally divided between the chambers and caucuses. The program would pay Congress’s clerks the same as U.S. district court clerks, and hire them on the same schedule. The annual cost is estimated by CBO at one million dollars – a fraction of the cost of U.S. Supreme Court law clerks, and easily justified by the benefits to Congress and legal interpretation of the law written by our elected lawmakers. Congress can offset this modest cost.
To train a new generation of lawyers who will more fully understand Congress's constitutional role, the legislative process, and the U.S. Code it produces, I ask that you cosponsor this bill and speed its passage. I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
Thank you for your time and service to our nation.