What are committees used for in everyday life? What about in Congress?
Why do we need committees in the legislative branch?
Divide up the work that will be done
Congress receives a lot of bills (almost 10,000 a year)
How would they do it all by themselves?
Most of the legislative work of Congress occurs in Committees.
Who is in a committee?
Majority of each house holds all the committee chairman seats
The majority party will also hold a majority of the seats on each committee, effectively controlling all the business of a committee
Most bills receive their most thorough administration in these bodies; members of both bodies usually respect the recommendations that committees make.
The committee member of majority party with most seniority becomes chair
Committee Chair Duties
They head standing committees in each chamber. This is important because of the bulk of the work is done in committees
Committee Chair Continued
Decide when committee will meet, which bills they will take up, whether they will hold public hearings, what witnesses to call
Manage the debate when the bill is called to the floor
Determined by House and Senate leadership and a caucus of the two parties
Members of Congress attempt to get on a committee that will allow them to do the most for their constituents
Reps are on 1-2 Committees, Senators are on 3-4
9-75 members in the House
12-28 members in Senate
Often committees assign bills to smaller groups, subcommittees, for initial consideration
MOST WORK IS DONE HERE!!
Each subcommittee is responsible for a particular slice of the committees overall workload
Types of Committees
Permanent committees in a legislative body to which bills in a specific subject matter area are concerned. These are the only ones that can propose legislation by reporting a bill out to the full House or Senate, with few exception.
MEMBERS BECOME EXPERTS IN THIS AREA
Currently 20 in the House and 18 in Senate
Fate of most bills is decided in the various standing committees, not on the floor of either house
Most members try to win assignments on important committees
Examples of important committees
Ways and Means
House Rules Committee - traffic cop. Screens the bills, if it reaches the floor it has also cleared the House Rules Committee.
Place bill on the calendar, limit debate time, determine allowed amendments
Banking, Housing, Urban Affairs
AKA Special Committees
Panels set up for some specific purpose and most often for a limited time
Examples include Watergate or Iran Contra
Appointment to a special committee
Speaker or the President of the Senate appoint with the help of leadership in each party
A committee composed of members of both houses
Most are permanent and thus standing, but they can also be temporary/select
Usually used to communicate to the public or for investigations, but generally do not send bills to the floor
Committees function by calling interested parties and expert witness who have some information to give
Pigeonhole a bill -
Committees can vote a bill out to keep it from being considered in their house.
Congressional Research Service (CRS)
Responds to congressional requests for information. Looks up facts and indicates arguments for and against, but DOES NOT RECOMMEND policy
General Accounting Office (GAO)
Financial Audits of money spent by the executive branch. Investigatory agency
Office of Technology Assessment (OTA)
Study and evaluate policies and programs with a significant use of or impact on technology
Congressional Budget Office
Advises Congress on the effects of spending and provides information about costs
Republican majority in the House of Representatives, elected in 1994, campaigned under a platform called the Contract with America
A blueprint for the first 100 days
Contract with America
Pledged within the first 100 days:
Balance budget Amendment
Crime bill that funds police and prisons
Strengthen parental rights in education and child support enforcement
Family tax cuts
Stronger national defense
Rise in Social Security earnings limit
Job creation and regulatory reform policies
Common sense legal reforms to stop frivolous lawsuits
A first ever vote on term limits for members of Congress