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Committees in Congress GOV E-1351. Delegation in Congress Again, Congress is self-organized Collective action problems –Legislative Activity and Oversight.

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Presentation on theme: "Committees in Congress GOV E-1351. Delegation in Congress Again, Congress is self-organized Collective action problems –Legislative Activity and Oversight."— Presentation transcript:

1 Committees in Congress GOV E-1351

2 Delegation in Congress Again, Congress is self-organized Collective action problems –Legislative Activity and Oversight are costly Policymaking requires expertise Different constituencies seek representation on different issues Gatekeeping – Why spend time on bad ideas?

3 What is a Committee? Subset of one or both chambers with a specified task –Legislative tasks Drafting Coordination –Procedural Tasks (House Rules) –Oversight tasks –Logistical Tasks

4 Morphology of Committees Type#ChambersPermanent or Ad Hoc Legislative ? Comm. of the Whole 1Ad HocYes Standing1PermanentYes Select & Special 1 or 2BothUsually Not Joint2PermanentUsually Not Conference2Ad HocYes

5 Committee of the Whole Fictional “committee” to which every member of the House belongs (there is no analogue in the Senate) Quorum in the CoW is 100 members (following Reed’s Rules of 1888) Rules are less formal than those for the House (and not subject to Constitutional restrictions)

6 The CoW is not the HoR All business conducted in the CoW must be ratified by the full House All amendments approved by the CoW must be revoted upon in the full House This implies that amendments that are successful in the CoW might fail in the full House The Speaker generally does not preside over the CoW

7 Standing Committees Committees that persist from Congress to Congress Typically legislative in nature (govern substantive business in a jurisdiction) Jurisdictions established by precedent, Speaker (& Parliamentarian’s) judgments, (Note: Standing committees in Senate do not work so much from referrals, except Judiciary and Foreign Relations) Memberships relatively stable over time

8 The Costs and Benefits of Standing Oversight responsibilities Budgetary role (historically) Authorization role (in House) Establishment of Seniority Regularity of Jurisdiction promotes campaign contributions from organized interests, development of expertise Majority Party overrepresented (except on Ethics Committees)

9 Select (or “Special”) Committees More Narrowly Focused Fewer membership restrictions Generally fewer legislative prerogatives Often investigative/topical in nature –Intelligence –Indian Affairs –Ervin Committee (Watergate) –Kefauver Committee (Organized Crime)

10 Joint Committees Inter-Chamber committees –Economic - informational –Taxation - informational –Library – coordination (runs Library of Congress) –Printing (runs GPO) –Atomic Energy (1947-1979) -- legislative

11 Conference Committees Joint Ad Hoc committees appointed to negotiate compromise between chambers after each passed a different version of the same bill House members are appointed by the Speaker In many ways, this is where the real decisions are made on controversial legislation

12 Conference Committees House Passes a bill and Senate passes a similar bill (regardless of order) One chamber requests a conference, other chamber agrees (or not) Committee approves a report by “majority of each delegation” rule Report sent back to chamber that requested conference If approved, committee is dissolved If second chamber also approves, then bill is sent to President

13 Power of the Conference Conference reports are essentially unamendable (why?) This give conference committee great power Conference committee generally consists of members in favor of appropriate chamber’s version of the bill (but not always) Technically, conference must stay within scope of original bills

14 Tangent: Resolving Disagreement Conference committees are not Constitutionally prescribed Without conference, chambers can send a bill “back and forth,” usually no more than 2 times (but this is simply a norm) Usually done when disagreement is technical in nature

15 The History of Committees Initially, Cabinet served as “committee chairs” (1 st -3 rd Congresses) Ways and Means established in House in 4 th Congress –Ways and Means now considers revenue measures, then considered all financial legislation (incl. banking) Select Committees initially important, decline from 150 in 1813 to <25 in 1850s –Standing Committees increase to ~50 in 1920s Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 –Established Modern System

16 The Early Senate Prior to 1816, Senate had no standing committees, then suddenly formed 12 Early Senates essentially “waited on” the House to initiate legislation Partly due to British System (House of Commons initiates legislation) But, also remember that Confederation Congress was unicameral

17 The LRA of 1946 Reduced standing committees (from 33- >15 for House) and 48->19 for Senate) Codified jurisdictions, expended committee and congressional support systems Former committees mostly became subcommittees within new committees, establishing more hierarchy within system

18 The LRA of 1970 Established formal requirements for committees: –Required formal rules for each committee –Opened hearings to public –Seniority starts to play smaller role in chair determination

19 The Republican Revolution of 1995 (In Committee Structure) Subcommittee Government made legislative activity more fractured –“Targetable” by specialized interests The GOP consolidated subcommittees (115->84), reorganized jurisdictions Cut staff by 1/3 rd Banned proxy voting in committees Term limits on committee chairs (later partially removed) 3/5ths majority vote required for tax increases

20 Subcommittee Bill of Rights The Democratic Caucus passed several reforms in the early 1970s that increased the power of subcommittees –Restriction on # of subcommittees that a member could chair –Subcommittees granted power over staffs –Subcommittee chairs selected by Democratic committee members –Referrals to subcommittee based on rules –Required most committees to have subcommittees Era of subcommittee government (1970s-90s)

21 Subcommittees, Policy and Access Subcommittees first appeared in the mid- 1880s Origin: appropriations decentralization First occurred in House, then followed soon thereafter in Senate (1890s) Prior to 1880s, committees delegated investigative tasks to members

22 Membership on Committees Formally: membership is determined by the chamber as a whole From 1789 until 1910, Speaker appointed committees in the House 1910: Revolt Against Speaker Cannon –Republicans: Committee on Committees (originally favoring members from Republican states) –Democrats: Ways & Means Committee made appointments until 1970s, now have a Committee On Committees

23 Senate: Committees elected by ballot until 1845 Party caucuses nominate lists for membership now Johnson Rule: Good assignments could had to be “spread around” (no member could have a second good assignment until each member of his or her party had one as well)

24 Membership and Reelection House committees typically control purse strings to varying degrees (not as much now as in the past) Control of regulatory authority resides largely in appropriate standing committees –Oversight, annual reports, subpoena powers –Groups seek visibility in hearings –Appropriations and Ways & Means especially important for “earmarks,” tax provisions, etc. Narrow Committees imply targeted donations for members (e.g., D.C., Post Office, Merchant Marine & Fisheries)

25 Hierarchy of Committees (81 st -102 nd C.) RankHouseSenate 1Ways and MeansFinance 2Appropriations 3RulesForeign Relations 4Energy & CommerceArmed Services 5 Judiciary 6Foreign AffairsRules & Administration 7Budget

26 Seniority In the 1910s, control of committee chairs slipped out of party hands (revolt against Cannon) and became based on seniority – terms served on committee Relaxed somewhat in 1974 (secret ballot in Caucus confirming chairs) – starting in 1950s, southern Democrats had concentrated power due to incumbency advantage and 1-party status in South

27 Assignment in Reality The process of assignment: members in each party request assignments at the beginning of each Congress Property rights: once on, you can stay Strategic calculation: seniority * prestige Restrictions on positions held play a large role in the calculation (# chairs, etc) Note that the Senate has more chairs per member, assignment is less contested

28 The GOP and the 107 th Congress In the 104 th – 106 th Congresses, Republicans changed House rules to mandate a 3-term limit for committee chairs In 107 th Congress, Speaker Hastert ruled that the rule applied to particular positions, meaning that chairs could be “rotated” (also, the Rules committee was granted an exception!)

29 Raw Committee Politics, Part I Revolt against Speaker Cannon largely precipitated by “abuse” of Speaker’s power to appoint chairs. –Appointed a new member of the Appropriations Committee as chair in 1905 Cannon used the power to punish members. –Denied the request of Rep. George W. Norris (R, NE), to be named to a delegation to attend the funeral of a Member who had beena personal friend of Norris –Norris was a “progressive” – Cannon wasn’t. Revolt precipitated seniority system, decline of Speaker, rise of Rules Committee, dominance of Southern Democrats from 1930s->1960s

30 Raw Committee Politics, Part II 106 th Congress: “A member of a standing committee may not serve as chairman of the same standing committee, or of the same subcommittee of a standing committee, during more than three consecutive Congresses…”

31 Raw Committee Politics, Part II 108 th Congress: “Except in the case of the Committee on Rules, a member of a standing committee may not serve as chairman of the same standing committee, or of the same subcommittee of a standing committee, during more than three consecutive Congresses …”

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