Todd   Gaziano

"I'm just a bill. Yes, I'm only a bill. And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill."

Those who watched Saturday morning cartoons from 1975-85 and 1993-99 will not easily forget the animated character "Bill" and his forlorn song about his "long, long wait" on Capitol Hill, hoping and praying he would become a law. The Schoolhouse Rock! educational video explains that most bills die before they "even make it to committee," and that if the House of Representatives approves a bill, the Senate must do likewise before it becomes a law.

Thus, by the age of about eight, children in America learned that Congress has not "failed to act" if a legislative idea is not immediately drafted and approved by both the House and Senate and sent to the President. In the video, Bill sings that "it's a long, long journey … [and i]t's a long, long wait" just "sitting in committee." A boy in the video who finds the weary Bill on the Capitol steps tells him "you certainly have a lot of patience."

Our current president has no patience, and so he is remaking our lawmaking process. It wasn't intended to be that way.

In the Schoolhouse Rock! video, the boy expresses terrible regret ("Oh no!") that the legislative process is so arduous. Yet Bill accepts that as an unalterable feature of our constitutional design; he has no choice but to be patient. In fact, he is excited at the prospect of repeating a trip through both houses of Congress ("Oh yes!").

The boy sums up his introductory lesson in lawmaking, "It's not easy to become a law, is it?" Bill replies emphatically "No!" Yet all ends well for animated Bill when he becomes a law. "Hooray!" is the reigning emotion, although that is the subject of the "Interjections" video.

Students later learn the grand purpose of our constitutional design: the legislative process was made purposefully difficult by various checks, including multiple actors with different constituencies, to force legislative compromise and kill intemperate proposals, all of which serve the paramount goal of preserving our liberty from erosion.


Todd Gaziano

Todd Gaziano is the executive director of Pacific Legal Foundation's Washington, DC Center and its senior fellow in constitutional law. Follow him on Twitter @ToddGaziano.