How young lawyers can help restore congressional capacity

Key Points

Nearly eighty percent of Americans disapprove of the way Congress does its job. Much of the blame can be attributed to its failure to substantively address many of the policy issues with which the public is concerned. And although some of this can perhaps be attributed to partisan gridlock and short congressional calendars, a substantial reason is simply that Congress does not have the appropriate capacity.
A large factor in this lacking capacity is a dearth of available, dedicated policy staff. In recent decades, Congress has cut vital committee staff and has minimized important research wings, like the Congressional Research Service. Compounding this problem is pressure for current staff to focus on other personal office and committee needs, such as communications and constituent services. In addition to these departures from policy work, Congress also suffers from frequent turnover. Often serving as staff or legislative assistants, low pay, unpleasant work environments and a lack of professional development opportunity means that younger staffers rarely stay on the Hill for long.
An immediate way for Congress [to beef up its policy staff is] to promote the hiring and retention of young lawyers. Such an effort offers several benefits, including more “in house” legal analysts and legislative drafters in personal offices and committees, staffers with substantive prior policy experience in a myriad of applicable fields, and staffers with excellent research and writing skills.

“In an era of 2,000-page bills and a colossal Code of Federal Regulations, legislation is more complex than ever. As such, trained lawyers add substantial value to the legislative process by offering the practical skills provided by their legal training.”

Press release – R Street policy paper: How young lawyers can help restore congressional capacity

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