Sloppy Pandering

Lara Friedman, the eagle-eyed legislative watchdog for Americans for Peace Now, found an example of some of the most amateurish bill drafting by any Congressional office that I've seen in more than 40 years on and around Capitol Hill.

One thing I learned early on was that there's a highly professional, non-partisan staff of attorneys in the Legislative Counsel's office that will take any idea coming from a Hill office and put it into the proper language and form. It helps keep staffers from embarrassing themselves and their bosses.

Apparently the legislative assistants or interns in the offices of Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Juan Vargas (D-CA were either too busy to check with legislative counsel or just thought they knew better before dropping H. Res. 270 in the hopper Monday. 

Franks is co-chair of the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus and Vargas is a member of the group.

Franks and Vargas introduced H. Res. 270, a non-binding resolution with a very long title:

 “A resolution expressing the sense of Congress regarding the Palestinian Authority's purported accession to the International Criminal Court for the purpose of initiating prosecutions against Israeli soldiers, citizens, officials, and leaders.”

Here's what Friedman, whose official title is director of Policy and Government Relations for APN, thought of it:

This resolution is notable for its extraordinary amateurish drafting, as exemplified right from the start in the measure’s short title, which refers repeatedly to the “purported” accession of the “Palestinian Authority” to the ICC.  The drafters of the resolution either fail to understand what the word “purported” actually means (inconceivable!) or fail to understand that the fact of the Palestinians’ accession to the ICC is in no way a claim that is in dispute (even if it is a fact the drafter of H. Res. 270 don’t like). Likewise, the repeated references to the “Palestinian Authority” betray either ignorance or a fundamental misunderstanding of what is happening today at the ICC and at the UN – where the PA in fact has no standing.  Rather, the Palestinians’ accession to the ICC derives from the UN General Assembly’s recognition of the State of Palestine as a non-member observer state at the UN – and it is this State of Palestine that has acceded to the ICC, not the PA.

Here's some advice for Reps. Franks and Vargas from a former longtime non-lawyer legislative assistant: If you want to impress those you are pandering to, contact the Office of Legislative Council by clicking here before dropping your latest inspiration into the bill hopper and sending out your press releases.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.