The characteristic features of American legislative constitution and procedure are unfavorable to a high degree of workmanship. Each member has the right to introduce bills and makes use of it. The number of bills introduced is so great that many receive no consideration whatever, and this inevitably reacts upon the care in preparation. It has become quite common for introducers of bills to admit that "of course the bill is by no means perfect" and that it is simply the framework of something that can be made acceptable. The authorship and sometimes the sponsorship is unknown. Many bills are introduced
"by request," the introducing member assuming no responsibility. Indeed it is only in the minority of cases that responsibility for the form of the bill can be definitely fixed, and even if the draftsman is known he rarely holds himself answerable for defects that mar the bill or that may eventually lead to the judicial nullification of the statute.
Apart from this lack of initial responsibility, the course of the bill through the legislature nearly always lacks that element of adversary procedure which is calculated to discover and remedy defects. The debates on the floor of the house can naturally hardly ever go into the discussion of details which must be reserved for committee; in committee there is often keen and valuable criticism, and leaving aside the absence of executive participation this stage may be as well handled as a committee discussion in a European parliament. But there is no assurance that an intelligent, adverse interest will develop in the committee, and, if not, the measure is apt to be accepted in reliance upon the sponsor's good intentions and sometimes as a matter of courtesy; for all members are both petitioners and granters of petitions and it would be strange if there were no mutual accommodation. There is no definite allotment of reciprocal responsibility that sharpens both wits and conscience. The multiform organization of the legislature-two bodies with the cooperation of the executive - is not utilized for functional differentiation. The second house of the legislature merely duplicates the work of the first house, and this duplication may, of course, serve to discover and correct defects. In European countries the upper house has not merely a different political complexion - with this we are not concerned except that a higher degree of conservatism will be more favorable to vested rights - but it is generally composed of men of exceptional legislative or judicial experience or learning or business capacity, so that it is peculiarly well qualified to deal with technical questions. The House of Lords, especially since it has been shorn of political power, has become primarily a revisory body, and its debates show a high degree of expert knowledge and criticism. In the United States the governor has a certain revisory power incidental to the veto power, which might be further developed if adequate time were given to the governor to act on bills after their enactment and after the close of the session. But at best all those revisory functions cannot cure a bill that is badly drafted, except by rejecting it. The work of original preparation must, in many respects, remain controlling. For influence in legislation executive initiative without the veto counts for more than the veto without the initiative.
Notwithstanding the disadvantages of unfixed or unconcentrated responsibility, it is still remarkable that the experiences of many years should not have been able to produce in legislative bodies definite and reasonably high standards of workmanship in the business for which they mainly exist. Lack of continuity between legislatures and the frequent changes in membership account for this only in part, for the defects are also found where these handicaps do not exist, and they seem to belong to legislative bodies in general. Perhaps the reasons for the indifference to legislative technic must be found in the predominance of political interests and in the power of traditions which perpetuate low as well as high standards. A large body responds with genuine interest only to appeals of a vital and human nature and principles of legislation lack that quality. One can, however, easily imagine that if high standards had once established themselves, even a large legislative body might be careful and zealous of their maintenance.