The Republican tax plan was just passed, but there is some uproar over the handwritten portions of the plan. Obviously, at first all bills were handwritten, but I'm curious if there were some practices which were in place then which may have faded as bills became predominantly typed.

Mainly, I am curious how/when it is decided what text is considered part of the bill.

That is, there are a few handwritten sentences which Democratic senators have stated are illegible. With a typed bill, there's no question as to what the literal text of a sentence is, however it seems on this bill there is. At the risk of a strawman, I believe there have been several instances where the exact text in a bill has been significant 1.

So then, at what moment is the text on the bill defined? In other words, do we need to work out if that word says "some" or "same" (made up example) before it's voted upon? At 500 pages, I assume this didn't happen unless it was only for the handwritten portions. On the other hand, determining what a bill said only as that part becomes relevant is obviously not a reasonable approach.

At what point is the text in a bill defined and deemed binding?

1 Even if this isn't true, I'm still curious about the question.

  • I think it goes without saying that all the hand-written text is officially part of the Senate bill that will now be sent to the house. It's official. Questions may still arise on the clarity (for example, Obamacare was challenged over 4 words - that challenge failed), but if a sentence or explanation is poorly written and unclear, that could invite a challenge. nytimes.com/2015/05/26/us/politics/…
    – userLTK
    Dec 5, 2017 at 7:20

1 Answer 1


The bill becomes binding if/when the president signs it into law.

It will not reach the president's desk, however, until the House and Senate reconcile the differences between their two bills. Both the house and the senate have passed their own versions of the tax reform bill in question, but one bill needs to be sent to the president that both houses of congress have agreed upon. The handwritten portions will presumably become typed during this time as the language needs to be agreed upon

  • 3
    "Presumably" is a bad thing in an answer. I would presume that bills passed by the house are recorded for their own sake, but I am not clear enough on the process to be sure there is a transcription rather than copying or scanning.
    – user9389
    Dec 4, 2017 at 22:14
  • While you might be mostly right, consider Senator Tester's comments of "Illegible" writing in the margins. realclearpolitics.com/video/2017/12/03/… The rush to get this bill passed within the reconciliation time-limit (remember Nancy Pelosi - we have to pass this so you can see whats in it, away from the fog . . ) - same situation. At best it wasn't read by everyone, that's a given, but it's possible that the edits, in addition to that aren't 100% clear. That could be an issue.
    – userLTK
    Dec 5, 2017 at 7:01

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