Office of Legislative Counsel: Senate
Office of Legislative Counsel: Senate
Matthew E. Glassman
Analyst on the Congress
Government and Finance Division
The Office of the Legislative Counsel of the Senate provides confidential,
nonpartisan legislative drafting services to committees and Members of the Senate. The
office’s legislative mandate is to “aid in drafting public bills and resolutions or
amendments thereto.” The Legislative Counsel, appointed by the President pro tempore
of the Senate, is responsible for the management and administration of the office. The
professional staff of the office currently also includes a deputy legislative counsel,
approximately 30 attorneys, and an administrative support staff. Services are provided
on request, to Senators and committees, giving priority to legislation with impending
conference, floor, or committee action. For more information on legislative process, see
[ http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/guidehome.shtml] .
Background and History1
The original Legislative Drafting Service,2 established by Section 1303 of the3
Revenue Act of 1918, was a single agency composed of two independent branches, one
under the direction of the Senate and the other under the direction of the House. In 1970,4
the House Office of Legislative Counsel was given its own separate legislative charter,
but the Senate Office of Legislative Counsel continues to operate under the authority of
the original statutory mandate.
1 This report was originally written by Thomas P. Carr, formerly an analyst in American National
Government at CRS. The listed author updated the report and is available to answer questions
concerning its contents.
2 The Legislative Drafting Service was renamed the Office of Legislative Counsel by Section
1101 of the Revenue Act of 1924, 43 Stat. 353 (1924), to avoid confusion with the Legislative
Reference Service of the Library of Congress (now the Congressional Research Service).
3 Revenue Act of 1918, 40 Stat. 1141 (1919), 2 U.S.C. 271-276b
4 Title V of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970, (2 U.S.C. 281-282e).
Structure and Functions
The office is under the direction of the Legislative Counsel of the Senate who is
appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate, “without reference to political
affiliations and solely on the ground of fitness to perform the duties of the office.” The
Legislative Counsel is empowered to appoint senior and assistant counsels, clerks and
other employees “necessary for the proper performance of the duties of the Office.” In
1999, the Legislative Counsel was given the authority to designate a deputy legislative
counsel to serve during his absence or disability or when the position of Legislative
Counsel is vacant.5
The statutory mandate of the office is to provide aid in drafting public bills and
resolutions and amendments thereto. This requires the office to be impartial as to the
issues of legislative policy and to maintain the attorney-client relationship with respect
to any communications with Senators or staff. The work of the office typically includes:
!Drafting bills and resolutions for introduction, and drafting of
amendments for use by Senators during subcommittee, committee, and
floor consideration of bills and resolutions.
!Drafting bills reported by Senate committees and conference reports for
House and Senate conference committees.
!Providing advice (including advice on form and procedure) on drafts of
bills, resolutions, and amendments.
!Providing advice on constitutional, legal, and technical problems in
statutes, proposed legislation, and reports and explanatory statements
accompanying proposed legislation.
Drafting assistance is provided only upon request as there is no requirement in the
rules of the Senate that bills, resolutions, or amendments be drafted by the office. The
ability of the office to respond to requests for assistance can be affected by the volume of
requests for drafting assistance, as well as the complexity of the issues presented. The
Senate Committee on Rules and Administration has determined the order of preference
to be given to legislative drafting requests: (1) measures in conference; (2) amendments
to measures pending on the floor; (3) amendments to measures pending before a
committee; and (4) measures to be prepared for individual Senators. Within each of these
categories, priority is given to requests based upon the time of receipt.
The office may perform other legal services for the Senate not inconsistent with
statutory mandates. Matters involving legal advocacy and litigation relating to Senators’
performance of official duties, however, are the province of the Senate Legal Counsel and
the Senate Chief Counsel for Employment.
5 See P.L. 106-57, Title I, Section 6, 113 Stat. 412.
The Office of Legislative Counsel is located in Room SD-668, Dirksen Senate Office
Building. Requests for assistance may be made in person, in writing, by telephone (4-
6461), by fax (4-0567), or via email (email@example.com). Additional
information on the office’s policies, procedures, and services is available from the
Legislative Counsel’s website at [http://slc.senate.gov/index.htm].