1. What is a standing committee and why are such committees called "subject-matter" committees?
2. What is the usual role of select committees in the House and Senate?
3. How do joint committees differ from conference committees?
4. Explain why you agree or disagree with the following statement: The Committee on Rules is the most powerful committee in the House.
5. Woodrow Wilson once noted that Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work. Explain the meaning of this statement in your own words.
6. How does the majority party manage to control all the committees in its house, and why does it do so?
The House and Senate have been naming their own special committees since 1789.
By 1794, there were more than 300 committees.
Each house then began to set up permanent panels, known as standing committees, to which all similar bills could be sent.
Each House committee has from 10 to as many as 75 members, and each Senate committee has from 14 to 28.
Representatives are normally assigned to one or two standing committees and senators to three or four.
Some panels are more prominent and more influential than others and most members try to win assignments to these important panels.
The leading committees in the House are the Rules, Ways and Means, Appropriations, Armed Services, Judiciary, International Relations, and Agriculture committees.
In the Senate, senators usually compete for places on the Foreign Relations, Appropriations, Finance, Judiciary, Armed Services, and Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs committees.
When a bill is introduced in either house, the Speaker or the president of the Senate refers the measure to the appropriate standing committee.
The chairman of the standing committees is chosen according to the seniority rule.
The members of the standing committees are formally elected by a floor vote at the beginning of each term of Congress.
The majority party always holds a majority of the seats on each standing committee.
Most standing committees are divided into two subcommittees, and each subcommittee is responsible for a particular slice of the committee’s overall workload.
The House Rules Committee
The House Committee on Rules is sometimes called the “traffic cop” in the lower house.
There are many measures introduced in the House each term that some screening is necessary.
Before most bills can reach the floor of the House, they must also clear the Rules Committee.
Normally, a bill gets to the floor only if it has been granted a rule-been scheduled for floor consideration-by the Rules Committee.
The committee decides whether and under what conditions the full House will consider a measure.
In the Senate the majority floor leader controls the appearance of bills on the floor.
At times, each house finds need for a select committee.
These groups are sometimes called special committees; they are panels set up for some specific purpose and, most often, for a limited time.
The Speaker of the House or the president of the Senate appoints the members of these special committees.
Most select committees are formed to investigate a current matter.
Congress must decide on the need for new laws and gauge the adequacy of those already on the books.
It also must ensure that federal agencies are following the laws it has already passed.
At times, the committee may conduct an investigation of an issue in order to focus public attention on the matter.
Most investigations are conducted by standing committees, however, select committees occasionally do that work.
Joint and Conference Committees
A joint committee is one composed of members of both houses.
Some are select committees set up to serve some temporary purpose.
Most are permanent groups that serve on a regular basis.
Some joint committees are investigative in nature and issue periodic reports to the House and Senate.
Most committees have routine duties.
When the two houses pass differing versions of a bill and the first house will not agree to the changes the other has made, a conference committee-a temporary, joint body- is created to iron out the differences in the bill.
Its job is to produce a compromise bill that both houses will accept.
The duties of the House Rules Committee are best described as those of a
a. factory foreman. c. congressional chaplain.
b. traffic cop. d. accounting clerk.
The main reason that Congress creates committees is to
a. divide the workload. c. introduce new bills.
b. educate new members. d. create party power bases.
Most select committees do NOT
a. conduct investigations.
b. have a specific purpose.
c. try to bring public attention to a matter.
d. produce compromise bills.
Answers: B / A / D