Office of Legislative Counsel: House
Office of Legislative Counsel: House
Matthew E. Glassman
Analyst on the Congress
Government and Finance Division
The Office of the Legislative Counsel of the House of Representatives provides
confidential, nonpartisan legislative drafting services to committees and Members of the
House. The office’s legislative mandate is “the achievement of a clear, faithful, and
coherent expression of legislative policies.” The Legislative Counsel, appointed by the
Speaker of the House of Representatives, is responsible for the management and
administration of the office. The professional staff of the office currently includes a
deputy legislative counsel, approximately 40 attorneys and an administrative support
staff. Services are provided to Members and committees “upon request,” giving priority
to legislation with imminent conference, markup, or floor action. For more information
on legislative process, see [http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/guidehome.shtml].
Background and History1
The original Legislative Drafting Service2, 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. The
House Office of Legislative Counsel was given its own separate legislative charter by
Title V of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 (2 U.S.C. 281-282e), effectively
separating the Office of Legislative Counsel into autonomous House and Senate
Structure and Functions
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 et seq.
The management, supervision, and administration of the Office is vested in the
House Legislative Counsel, appointed by the Speaker of the House. The Legislative
Counsel is empowered to “appoint such attorneys and other employees as may be
necessary for the prompt and efficient performance of the functions of the Office.” These
attorneys are both subject-matter specialists and experts in legislative drafting. The
Legislative Counsel also designates a deputy legislative counsel to serve during his
absence or disability or when the position of Legislative Counsel is vacant.
The statutory charter requires the office to be impartial as to issues of legislative
policy and to maintain the attorney-client relationship with respect to any communications
with Members or committees of the House. The work of the office typically includes:
!Drafting of bills and resolutions for introduction, and drafting of
amendments for use by Members during subcommittee, committee, and
floor consideration of bills and resolutions.
!Drafting advice (including advice on form and procedure) on drafts of
bills, resolutions, and amendments prepared by others.
!Assisting committees in the preparation of reports, including changes to
existing law in compliance with the Ramseyer rule, and explanatory
statements accompanying conference reports.
Requests for drafting assistance are at Members’ initiative. There is no requirement
in the rules of the House of Representatives that bills and resolutions must be drafted by
the Office of Legislative Counsel. One notable exception to this general rule relates to
amendments made in order under special rules from the Rules Committee. Guidelines
promulgated by the committee stipulate that the assistance of the Legislative Counsel’s
Office should be sought in drafting such amendments, to ensure they are drafted to the
most up-to-date version of a base bill, and to facilitate posting the text to the Rules
The ability of the Office of Legislative Counsel 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 statute governing operations of the office gives
priority for drafting services first to conference managers, second to committees, third to
Members controlling floor time, and last to individual Members. However, the office
endeavors to meet all requests in a timely manner.
At the direction of the Speaker, the office may perform other legal services for the
House of Representatives not inconsistent with statutory mandates. However, matters
relating to legal advocacy and litigation relating to Members performance of official
duties are the province of the Office of the General Counsel.
The Office of Legislative Counsel is located in Room 136, Cannon House Office
Building. Requests for assistance may be made in person, in writing, by telephone (5-
6060), by fax (5-3437), or via email (LegCoun@mail.house.gov). Additional information
on the office’s policies, procedures, and services is available from the Legislative
Counsel’s website at [http://legcoun.house.gov/].