The Nov. 10 obituary for former nine-term representative Joseph D. Early (D-Mass.) reported, “Mr. Early sponsored no major legislation during his 18 years in Congress . . . ” [“Legislator lost seat amid bank scandal,” Metro]. In a similar vein, The Post frequently labels a congressional committee as “powerful.” Such adjectives are a bit misleading.
As a former legislative staffer, I know that original sponsors’ names rarely end up on final laws and most laws result from the efforts of many, making it difficult to attribute a particular law to one legislator. Usually, individual bills and amendments are incorporated into larger bills crafted and shepherded through the legislative process by the leadership.
Is a major bill one that affects millions of dollars or people? Amends the Constitution? Overturns long-standing law? Is a powerful committee one with meaty jurisdiction? One with taxing or appropriating power? One with the most members? The committee chairs would likely argue that each committee is powerful.
In describing legislation and legislating, these adjectives do not work. And they fail to recognize the complex, detailed and dogged work of many legislators and staffers involved in writing and passing bills.
May Congressman Early get some major bills passed wherever he is.
Glenda Booth, Alexandria