How much does it cost the taxpayers to get a bill passed from the original proposal to enactment?
Answer by John Murdoch
You're essentially asking a question like, "how long is a piece of rope?" The answer depends upon how big a bill (or long a piece of rope) you're asking about. The cost of passing a piece of legislation vary widely.
Example #1: a U.S. Postal Service employee, also a member of the Army Reserve, is killed in Afghanistan. His co-workers want to remember him by renaming the facility where he worked. To do so they must have an act of Congress.
This is simple: their local member of the House of Representatives will have his staff draft a bill; the bill will be circulated through the appropriate committees, and presented for a vote. It will typically be approved by "unanimous consent" in a clerical session on the House floor, and passed in a similar manner by the Senate. The big expense is the photocopying.
Example #2: A member of Congress, angered over stories of steroid abuse, introduces a bill to revoke the exemption of Major League Baseball from the Anti-Trust Act. In theory, this is a big deal--MLB will demand hearings, testimony will be taken, and so forth. In practice, this bill has zero chance of passing--so very little administrative money will be spent.
Example #3: A member of Congress, with "legislative support" from the TV and film industry, proposes a bill to provide government funding for film projects filmed in the U.S. (to help regain parity with low-budget TV series that are filmed in Toronto or Vancouver).
The bill affects a number of committees--including Foreign Affairs (since it raises the threat of a NAFTA and/or WTO action by other countries who might be harmed by the bill); Commerce (since it changes the rules of doing business); Ways and Means (since taxes or other revenues must be found to pay for it); and other committees. The bill may affect more than one subcommittee of each committee.
Every subcommittee will want to hold hearings. Every member of each of those subcommittees will want to review the bill's language. The committee staff may offer revisions--or rewrite the whole thing. Each new draft will be circulated to all involved. Major duplicating expense, and major payroll expense.
Since the bill will affect international trade, tax revenue, and employment, various committees may ask the Congressional Budget Office or the Congressional Research Service to express opinions on the bill--if we assume X, what will the economic impact be? Dozens of econo-boffins will slaughter scores of goats, and carefully examine their entrails. Goats cost money, econo-boffins cost money, duplicating all their research reports cost money (and cleaning up all the entrails costs money too).
Once we have a draft bill, the committees will hold hearings. Expert witnesses may be compensated for travel costs. Staff and security costs will be significant.
Bottom line: there's a huge range, depending upon what the bill does, and whom it affects.
Answer by Tom Lindholtz
Here's another approach to the question. This link -- http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-112srpt80/html/CRPT-112srpt80.htm -- takes you to a Government Printing Office Report of the 2012 Legislative Branch budget request to the Senate. It shows a total legislative tab of $4-5B for running the legislative branch for a year. That includes: Congress, the Architect of the Capitol, the Congressional Police, the Library of Congressthank sundry other functions all included under the legislative branch. So, the question is, cost-benefit. Are you getting anything of value? Are you getting a good value for the money it costs?