House Committees: A Framework for Considering Jurisdictional Realignment
CRS Report for Congress
House Committees: A Framework for
Considering Jurisdictional Realignment
Updated February 23, 2005
Michael L. Koempel
Senior Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
House Committees: A Framework for
Considering Jurisdictional Realignment
The House has chosen to handle committee jurisdiction in a number of ways.
It has chosen to concentrate jurisdiction over an issue in new, existing, and temporary
committees. It has chosen to keep jurisdiction over components of an issue
distributed among several committees. And, it has chosen to vest in one committee
jurisdiction over a narrow subject matter that could just as readily have been
considered a component of subject matter within another committee’s jurisdiction.
Rules relating to referral and the Speaker’s referral authority have also been changed
to deal with jurisdictional issues. The House’s most recent decision to create a
standing Committee on Homeland Security reflected the several values that can bear
on jurisdictional alignment (H.Res. 5, 109th Congress, and an accompanying
legislative history of House Rule X changes contained in the resolution).
While the House and Senate consolidated and reduced the number of
committees in the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, and for the first time
vested each committee with specific jurisdiction, the House did not adopt wide-
ranging committee reorganizations in 1974 or 1994. Rather, the House on a number
of occasions since 1946 has chosen incremental change in committee jurisdictional
The House is expected to study its committee organization during the 109th
Related CRS reports are as follows:
CRS Report RL32711, Homeland Security: Compendium of Recommendations
Relevant to House Committee Organization and Analysis of Considerations for
the House, by Michael L. Koempel;
CRS Report RS21901, House Select Committee on Homeland Security: Possible
Questions Raised If the Panel Were to Be Reconstituted as a Standing
Committee, by Judy Schneider;
CRS Report RL31835, Reorganization of the House of Representatives: Modern
Reform Efforts, by Judy Schneider, Christopher M. Davis, and Betsy Palmer;
CRS Report RL31572, Appropriations Subcommittee Structure: History of Changes,
Unity of Effort........................................2
Differing Policy Perspectives.............................6
Temporary Committees and Permanent Realignments.................8
Special Jurisdictional Protections........................12
Joint Committees ............................................14
House Committees: A Framework for
Considering Jurisdictional Realignment
In analyzing the organization of legislative committees, congressional scholars
have suggested three potential models for committee systems. The first model,
distributional, explains the relationship between the creation of committees and the
opportunity for Members to choose committee assignments that are most relevant to
their reelection. The second model, informational, explains a legislature’s need for
specialization, expertise, and knowledge of the executive branch, and the opportunity
for Members to choose committee assignments that bring differing perspectives to
committees. The third model, party, explains the relationship between party
priorities and committee members’ support of those priorities.1
Each possible scheme for organizing congressional committees emphasizes a
different set of values. The House, beginning with the Legislative Reorganization
Act of 1946,2 has chosen to handle committee jurisdiction in a number of ways. The
1946 act itself consolidated and reduced the number of committees in both the House
and Senate, and for the first time vested each with specific jurisdiction. While the
House has made many incremental changes to committee jurisdictions since 1946,
its attempts at wide-ranging committee reorganization in 1974 and 1994 were
The House most recently considered the organization of its committees to
handle the set of issues related to the policy area of homeland security. In a report
released July 22, 2004, the 9/11 Commission emphasized “unity of effort” in its
proposals for organization of the executive branch and for committee organization
in Congress, related to intelligence and homeland security.4 The commission stated:
“Unity of effort in executive management can be lost if it is fractured by divided
congressional oversight.”5 Regarding the commission’s specific recommendation of
1 Walter J. Oleszek and Roger H. Davidson, Congress and Its Members, 9th ed. (Washington:
Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2004), pp. 194-195.
2 60 Stat. 812.
3 For a detailed history of House efforts since 1946, see CRS Report RL31835,
Reorganization of the House of Representatives: Modern Reform Efforts, by Judy
Schneider, Christopher M. Davis, and Betsy Palmer.
4 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, The 9/11 Report: Final
Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
(Washington: GPO, July 22, 2004), pp. 399 et seq. (Available online at
[http://www.gpoaccess.gov/911], visited Feb. 11, 2005.)
5 Ibid., p. 420.
a single authorizing committee in each house for homeland security, the commission
explained its recommendation:
Through not more than one authorizing committee and one appropriating
subcommittee in each house, Congress should be able to ask the secretary of
homeland security whether he or she has the resources to provide reasonable
security against major terrorist acts within the United States and to hold the6
secretary accountable for the department’s performance.
The House studied committee organization related to homeland security policy
area in the 108th Congress and created a standing Committee on Homeland Security
in the 109th Congress.7
The commission spoke for efficiency and accountability in its recommendation.
The House in its choices over committee organization has demonstrated an interest
in a wider range of values, including in choosing the jurisdiction it vested in the new
Homeland Security Committee and the jurisdiction over homeland-security-related
issues it retained in existing committees.
The House is expected to further study its committee organization during the
House Rule X, clause 1 contains a jurisdictional statement for each standing
committee. Other clauses in this rule set out additional powers or duties of standing
committees. A separate clause governs the Permanent Select Committee on
Intelligence. These jurisdictional statements employ for the most part subject-matter
terminology rather than law, program, or agency names.
Unity of Effort. The jurisdiction vested by Rule X in the Armed Services
Committee seems to reflect the kind of “unity of effort” in committee organization
that was sought by the 9/11 Commission. The Armed Services Committee has
jurisdiction over the “Department of Defense generally, including the Departments
of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, generally.” Other, more specific subject matter
is also listed in the committee’s jurisdictional statement.9 Creation of this committee
occurred by merger of the separate Military Affairs and Naval Affairs Committees,
pursuant to the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, and preceded by one
6 Ibid., p. 421.
7 H.Res. 5, §2(a); H.Res. 5 was agreed to in the House Jan. 4, 2005.
8 U.S. House, Committee on Rules, Oversight Plan of the House Committee on Rules for
the 109th Congress. (Available online at [http://www.house.gov/rules/rules_over_109.htm],
visited Feb. 22, 2005.) See also Richard E. Cohen, “House Leadership: Rules Panel Eyes
More Active Role in Shaping Legislation,” CongressDaily PM, Jan. 25, 2005; and “Veteran
Rules Staffer to Retire Next Month,” CongressDaily AM, Jan. 26, 2005, p. 12.
9 House Rule X, cl. (1)(c).
Congress the creation of the National Military Establishment, later redesignated the
Department of Defense.10
However, due in part to dissatisfaction in the 1970s with the Armed Services
Committee’s and other committees’ conduct of intelligence oversight, the House
created what ultimately became the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and
gave it jurisdiction over the Central Intelligence Agency, “intelligence and
intelligence-related activities of all other departments and agencies of the
Government including the tactical intelligence and intelligence-related activities of
the Department of Defense,” organization or reorganization of an agency as it “relates
to a function or activity involving intelligence or intelligence-related activities,” and
similar subject matter.11 The House also provided the select committee with a
rotating membership that was partially drawn from specified committees, in addition
to designating the Speaker and minority leader as ex officio members (without voting
privileges). The House chose a committee organization that created a separate
committee, that was open to more Members, and that allowed Members with
differing policy perspectives to have a role in oversight of intelligence.12
More recently, since enactment of the Financial Services Modernization Act of
1999, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA),13 the House has concentrated
jurisdiction over financial services in the Financial Services Committee. In the 107th
Congress, the Banking and Financial Services Committee was renamed the Financial
Services Committee, and gained jurisdiction over insurance generally and over
securities and exchanges from the Energy and Commerce Committee. The changes
embodied in GLBA were propelled in part by changes in the financial services sector
that required a new regulatory framework to deal with technology, competition,
10 Jurisdiction over Defense Department appropriations remains split among several House
Appropriations Committee subcommittees. As recently as the 108th Congress,
appropriations for the Defense Department were largely split among three appropriationsth
subcommittees: Defense, Energy and Water, and Military Construction. In the 109
Congress, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Lewis announced a reorganization
of appropriations subcommittees. Jurisdiction over Defense Department appropriations is
still largely split among three subcommittees: Defense, Energy and Water, and Military
Quality of Life. See U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, “Chairman Lewis
Major Reorganization of the House Appropriations Committee and Slate of Subcommittee
Chairmen,” news release, Feb. 9, 2005, at [http://appropriations.house.gov/index.cfm?Fuse
Action=PressReleases.Detail&PressRelease_id=439], visited Feb. 22, 2005.
11 House Rule X, cl. 11(b)(1). The select committee was created pursuant to H.Res. 658,
agreed to in the House July 14, 1977.
12 “U.S. Intelligence Agencies Probed in 1975,” Congressional Quarterly Almanac 1975,
vol. XXXI (Washington: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1976), pp. 387-408; and
“Intelligence Committee,” Congressional Quarterly Almanac 1977, vol. XXXIII
(Washington: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1977), pp. 376-377.
The creation of the intelligence committee might be an example of the informational
model of committee organization. Under such a system, the differing perspectives of the
committee’s members allow the committee to develop policy recommendations to settle
13 P.L. 106-102; 113 Stat. 1338.
globalization, and the breakdown in differences between types of financial
institutions.14 The new jurisdictional arrangement in the House reflected these
changes in the financial sector of the economy.
Sometimes jurisdictional overlaps can be worked out with an agreement
between the affected committees that recognizes important collateral policy areas.
That happened, for example, shortly after the House adopted the changes to the
Energy and Commerce and Financial Services Committees’ jurisdiction. The
changes were facilitated with a memorandum of understanding, which the Speaker
inserted in the Congressional Record. The memorandum protected the Energy and
Commerce Committee’s jurisdiction over “regulation and [Securities and Exchange
Commission] oversight of multistate public utility holding companies and their
subsidiaries, which remain essentially matters of energy policy,” while allowing the
transfer of jurisdiction over securities and exchanges to the Financial Services
Committee. The memorandum also protected the Energy and Commerce
Committee’s jurisdiction over “consumer affairs and consumer protection,” while
allowing the transfer of jurisdiction over insurance to the Financial Services
Committee. The memorandum also clarified other jurisdictional matters.15
In the 109th Congress, in creating a standing Committee on Homeland Security,
the House accepted the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, other outside
experts, and its own Select Committee on Homeland Security to centralize
jurisdiction over homeland security.16 The House had created the Select Committee
on Homeland Security in the 108th Congress with legislative and oversight authority
over the Homeland Security Act of 2002,17 and in addition charged it with studying
the “operation and implementation of the rules of the House, including rule X
[providing committees’ jurisdiction], with respect to the issue of homeland
security.”18 On September 30, 2004, the select committee recommended creation of
14 See CRS Report RL30375, Major Financial Services Legislation, The Gramm-Leach-
Bliley Act (P.L. 106-102): An Overview, by F. Jean Wells and William D. Jackson; and CRS
Report RL30516, Mergers and Consolidation Between Banking and Financial Services
Firms: Trends and Prospects, by William D. Jackson.
15 Speaker Hastert, “Memorandum of Understanding between Energy and Commerce
Committee and Financial Services Committee,” remarks in the House, Congressional
Record, daily edition, vol. 147, Jan. 20, 2001, p. H67. This memorandum was updated inth
the 109 Congress. See “Announcement by the Speaker Pro Tempore,” Congressional
Record, daily edition, vol. 151, Jan. 4, 2005, p. H35.
16 For a detailed examination of the recommendations and of the events in the 107th and 108th
Congresses leading up to the creation in the 109th Congress of the standing Committee on
Homeland Security, see CRS Report RL32711, Homeland Security: Compendium of
Recommendations Relevant to House Committee Organization and Analysis of
Considerations for the House, by Michael L. Koempel.
17 P.L. 107-296; 116 Stat. 2135.
18 H.Res. 5 was agreed to in the House Jan. 7, 2003. The study of House rules was mandated
a standing homeland security committee and the curtailment of homeland-security-
related jurisdiction in six existing standing committees.19
The House, however, did not go as far as its select committee recommended, but
retained homeland-security-related jurisdiction in a number of committees. In debate
over H.Res. 5 on January 4, 2005, providing for the adoption of the House’s rules for
the 109th Congress, Rules Committee Chairman Dreier inserted in the Congressional
Record a “legislative history” concerning the changes in Rule X to explain the
jurisdiction of the new committee vis-à-vis the existing standing committees and the
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.20
The legislative history first explained that the new committee’s legislative
jurisdiction over “overall homeland security policy” was to be interpreted “on a
government-wide or multi-agency basis similar to the Committee on Government
Reform’s jurisdiction over ‘overall economy, efficiency, and management of
government operations and activities....’” The legislative history stated further:
“Surgical addresses of homeland security policy in sundry areas of jurisdiction
occupied by other committees would not be referred to the Committee on Homeland
Security on the basis of ‘overall’ homeland security policy jurisdiction.”21
Second, the legislative history interpreted the new committee’s legislative
jurisdiction over DHS’s “organization and administration” to be “confined to
organizational and administrative efforts and would not apply to programmatic
efforts within the Department of Homeland Security within the jurisdiction of other
Third, the legislative history explained the new committee’s homeland security
oversight jurisdiction. The new committee would have oversight jurisdiction over
the “homeland security community of the United States.” However, as noted in the
legislative history, this jurisdiction would not necessarily circumscribe the oversight
jurisdiction of other committees:
Nothing in this clause shall be construed as prohibiting or otherwise restricting
the authority of any other committee to study and review homeland security
activities to the extent that such activity directly affects a matter otherwise within23
the jurisdiction of that committee.
19 House Select Committee on Homeland Security, Recommendations of the Select
Committee on Homeland Security on Changes to the Rules of the House of Representativesthnd
with Respect to Homeland Security Issues, 108 Cong., 2 sess., Sep. 30, 2004. (Available
online at [http://hsc.house.gov/files/mini_report_sigs.pdf], visited Feb. 11, 2005.)
20 “Legislative History to Accompany Changes to Rule X,” Congressional Record, daily
edition, vol. 151, Jan. 4, 2005, pp. H25-H26.
21 Ibid., p. H25.
22 Ibid., p. H25.
23 Ibid., p. H25.
Fourth, the legislative history interpreted the “individual committee concerns”
between the new committee on the one hand and nine standing committees and the
Intelligence Committee on the other. This section of the legislative history detailed
jurisdictional relationships covering a number of specific policy and programmatic
areas. In addition, in further explanation of the relationship between the new
committee and the Ways and Means Committee, the legislative history contained a
copy of the “Delegation from the Secretary of the Treasury to the Secretary of
Homeland Security of general authority over Customs revenue functions vested in
the Secretary of the Treasury as set forth in the Homeland Security Act of 2002.”24
In addition, in the Speaker’s announcements on policies in the 109th Congress,
the Speaker stated that “referrals of measures to the Select Committee on Homeland
Security of the 108th Congress will not constitute precedent for referrals to the new
[standing Committee on Homeland Security].”25
In remarks to the House, Chairman Dreier commented on the jurisdictional
arrangements over homeland security affecting the House’s standing committees:
... This change in House rule X, which governs the committees and their
legislative jurisdictions, is a delicately crafted architecture. It creates a primary
committee while recognizing the other legitimate oversight roles of existing
committees. We envision a system of purposeful redundancy. By that, we mean
more than one level of oversight and an atmosphere in which the competition of
ideas is encouraged.
With this jurisdiction and the legislative history that I [have placed] in the
Record, the Department of Homeland Security will have more certainty as to
which committee has the primary responsibility for homeland security. At the
same time, the American people will live with the assurance that we are working26
to prevent anything from falling through the cracks.
The Committee on Homeland Security was the first standing committee of the
House to be created since the Committee on the Budget in 1974, and the first
permanent committee to be created since the Permanent Select Committee on
Intelligence in 1977.
Differing Policy Perspectives. An example of the House choosing
openness and differing policy perspectives over jurisdictional clarity was its abolition
of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy (JCAE). The joint committee, created in
law in the Atomic Energy Act of 1946,27 presided over the development of nuclear
weaponry and the commercialization of nuclear energy. By the 1970s, public health
and environmental concerns were part of the policy debate over nuclear energy’s
24 Ibid., pp. H25-H26.
25 “Announcement by the Speaker Pro Tempore,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vol.
26 Rep. David Dreier, remarks in the House, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 151,
Jan. 4, 2005, p. H14.
27 60 Stat. 755.
future, and the joint committee was criticized for its closeness to the nuclear power
industry. The jurisdiction and influence of the joint committee eroded, until the
House abolished it in 1977, dispersing its jurisdiction to several committees.28
Issues can often be looked at from more than one jurisdictional perspective, and
the House has sometimes chosen to grant jurisdiction over an issue to a committee
with a specific rather than a general interest. For example, the Education and the
Workforce Committee has jurisdiction over “education or labor generally,”29 but
jurisdiction over the education of veterans is vested in the Veterans’ Affairs
Committee, over mining schools in the Resources Committee, over international
education in the International Relations Committee, and over agricultural colleges in
the Agriculture Committee.30 Jurisdiction over the federal civil service is vested in
the Government Reform Committee, and over transportation labor in the
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.31 Although the Government Reform
Committee has jurisdiction over the federal civil service, the Armed Services
Committee has jurisdiction over “pay, promotion, retirement, and other benefits and
privileges of members of the armed forces.”32
In a similar vein, the House in some instances has not chosen to consolidate
arguably related issues under the jurisdiction of one or even two committees. For
example, while the International Relations Committee holds jurisdiction over
“relations of the United States with foreign nations generally,” the Ways and Means
Committee has jurisdiction over the international relations issue of trade and the
Financial Services Committee over the issue of international financial and monetary
organizations.33 Programs administered by the Environmental Protection Agency are
principally within the jurisdiction of the Agriculture, Energy and Commerce,
Resources, Science, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Ways and Means
Committees,34 in addition to the agency’s discretionary spending being within the
jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee and its personnel and procurement
being covered by laws within the jurisdiction of the Government Reform Committee,
28 See CRS Report RL32538, 9/11 Commission Recommendations: Joint Committee on
Atomic Energy — A Model for Congressional Oversight?, by Christopher M. Davis; and
“Atomic Energy Committee,” Congressional Quarterly Almanac 1977, vol. XXXIII
(Washington: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1977), pp. 660-661.
The JCAE case might be an example of both the distributional and informational
models of committee organization and what can happen. Under a distributional system, self-
selection leads to committees that are homogeneous compared to the larger, more
heterogeneous parent chamber. The chamber majority might reject or amend a committee’s
policy recommendations, or it might ultimately disband the committee.
29 House Rule X, cl. 1(e)(6).
30 House Rule X, cl. 1(s)(3), cl. 1(m)(14), cl. 1(k)(8), and cl. 1(a)(4), respectively.
31 House Rule X, cl. 1(h)(1) and cl. 1(r)(20), respectively.
32 House Rule X, cl. 1(c)(10).
33 House Rule X, cl. 1(k)(1), cl. 1(t)(2), and cl. 1(g)(6), respectively.
34 House Rule X, cl. 1(a), cl. 1(f), cl. 1(m), cl. 1(o), cl. 1(r), and cl. 1(t), respectively.
recognizing the different expertise and competing interests at stake in environmental
Temporary Committees and Permanent Realignments
Yet other considerations have led to different responses by the House in
creating, dissolving, and realigning committees. These responses have been tailored
to particular legislative situations or have resolved more long-standing concerns.
Temporary Committees. When jurisdiction over an important issue has
spanned the jurisdictions of several or many committees, the House has sometimes
created temporary committees, with temporary, specific jurisdiction, to handle a
specific piece of legislation. One example of this kind of committee, where the
legislation reported became law, was the Select Committee on the Outer Continental
Shelf, which was created to write a new offshore leasing law.35 The committee’s
work resulted in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Amendments of 1978.36
In the 107th Congress, the President’s proposal to create the Department of
Homeland Security was referred “in addition” to a number of standing committees
with jurisdiction, with primary referral to the Select Committee on Homeland
Security, which the House created to “develop recommendations and report to the
House on such matters that relate to the establishment of a department of homeland
security as may be referred to it by the Speaker.” The Speaker was authorized to set
a time limit for each standing committee to “submit its recommendations on the bill
only to the select committee.”37 The select committee’s work resulted in the
Homeland Security Act of 2002.38
The House created a new Select Committee on Homeland Security for the
duration of the 108th Congress, and vested it with the following jurisdiction:
(1) LEGISLATIVE JURISDICTION — The select committee may develop
recommendations and report to the House by bill or otherwise on such matters
that relate to the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-296) as may
be referred to it by the Speaker.
(2) OVERSIGHT FUNCTION — The select committee shall review and study
on a continuing basis laws, programs, and Government activities relating to39
35 Created pursuant to H.Res. 412, agreed to in the House Apr. 22, 1975. The committee’s
existence was extended in the 95th and 96th Congresses; it was disbanded in 1980.
36 P.L. 95-372; 92 Stat. 629.
37 Created pursuant to H.Res. 449, agreed to in the House June 19, 2002. The Speaker is
authorized to appoint members and refer legislation to a “special, ad hoc” committee with
the approval of the House, pursuant to House Rule XII, cl. 2(c)(4).
38 P.L. 107-206; 116 Stat. 2135.
39 Section 4(b)(1) and (2) of H.Res. 5, agreed to in the House Jan. 7, 2003. During debate
The jurisdiction of the select committee provided the House with a focus for
homeland security legislation and oversight, without immediately changing the
jurisdictions of the standing committees that held jurisdiction over aspects of
As mentioned earlier, the House also assigned the select committee the
additional function of assisting the House in determining how it might organize itself
vis-à-vis the issue of homeland security in the future.40
Realigning Committees. The House on occasion has chosen to reduce the
number of its committees by eliminating those perceived to have a narrow or
redundant jurisdiction and by transferring that jurisdiction to other committees. Forth
example, with the beginning of the 104 Congress, the House terminated the District
of Columbia and Post Office and Civil Service Committees, and added their
jurisdiction to that of the Government Reform Committee. It also eliminated the
Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, and distributed its jurisdiction among the41
Armed Services, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Resources Committees.
Previously, in the 103rd Congress, the House eliminated four select committees
(having no legislative jurisdiction): Aging; Children, Youth, and Families; Hunger;
and Narcotics Abuse and Control.42
The House has also chosen to redistribute a committee’s jurisdiction when it has
perceived that the jurisdiction is too broad, that components of the jurisdiction are
closely related to the jurisdiction of other committees, or that a redistribution of
jurisdiction would better distribute House committees’ workload. For example, in
adopting rules for the new 104th Congress, the House redistributed some of the
jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee: the Glass-Steagall Act to what
is now the Financial Services Committee; inland waterways and railroads to the
on the rules changes proposed to the House, Rep. Oberstar, the ranking member of the
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, observed: “Mr. Speaker, the proposal
to create a new Select Committee on Homeland Security interestingly does not make any
changes in the legislative jurisdiction of the committees outlined in rule 10 of the rules of
the House.” He ended his remarks by asking a question of House Rules Chairman Dreierthth
about referral in the 108 Congress of a bill covering subject matter that, in the 107
Congress, had been reported by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Chairman
Dreier responded: “Mr. Speaker, let me just say that it is very clear that the Speaker does
have authority to refer legislation, and it is his intent to ensure that we maintain the
jurisdiction of those committees.” Rep. James L. Oberstar and Rep. David Dreier, remarks
in the House, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 149, Jan. 7, 2003, p. H15.
40 Section 4(b)(3) of H.Res. 5.
41 H.Res. 6, agreed to in the House Jan. 5, 1995.
42 Permanent authority for the Select Committee on Aging was terminated by H.Res. 5,
agreed to in the House Jan. 5, 1993. The temporary authorities for the other three select
committees were not renewed.
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; and the trans-Alaska pipeline to the
On the other hand, the Energy and Commerce Committee was the beneficiary
of changes to its jurisdiction in 1980 when the House agreed to a resolution based in
part on recommendations made by the Patterson Committee. Three years after the
creation of the Energy Department, the House redesignated the Interstate and Foreign
Commerce Committee as the Energy and Commerce Committee and gave it
jurisdiction over national energy policy generally and over many components of
energy policy.44 In this instance, the House chose to affirm and to a degree expand
the jurisdiction of an existing committee.
In creating the Committee on Homeland Security in the 109th Congress, the
House granted the committee jurisdiction over homeland security policy, the
organization and administration of DHS, and six functional areas of DHS
responsibility: “border and port security (except immigration policy and non-border
enforcement)”; “customs (except customs revenue)”; “integration, analysis, and
dissemination of homeland security information”; “domestic preparedness for and
collective response to terrorism”; “research and development”; and “transportation
security.” In order to effect the committee’s jurisdiction in these functional areas, the
House amended the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee with regard to
immigration and enforcement, that of the Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee with regard to transportation security, and that of the Ways and Means
Committee with regard to customs.45
43 Section 202 of H.Res. 6, agreed to in the House Jan. 7, 2003. Committees might also
reorganize their subcommittees for similar purposes. For example, on Jan. 29, 2003, House
Appropriations Committee Chairman Young announced the creation of the Homeland
Security Subcommittee to correspond to the new Department of Homeland Security. The
jurisdictions of the other subcommittees were realigned in order to retain 13 appropriations
subcommittees, including the new subcommittee. See U.S. Congress, House Committee on
Appropriations, “Chairman Young Announces Homeland Security Reorganization,” news
release, Jan. 29, 2003, at [http://appropriations.house.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=Press
Releases.Detail&PressRelease_id=210&Month=1&Year=2003], visited Dec. 21, 2004. On
Feb. 9, 2005, the new House Appropriations Committee chairman, Jerry Lewis, announced
the committee’s further reorganization, reducing the 13 subcommittees to 10 in number and
realigning subcommittee jurisdictions. See U.S. Congress, House Committee on
Appropriations, “Chairman Lewis Major Reorganization of the House Appropriations
Committee and Slate of Subcommittee Chairmen,” news release, Feb. 9, 2005, at
ase_id=439], visited Feb. 22, 2005.
44 H.Res. 549, agreed to in the House Mar. 25, 1980. The House created the Select
Committee on Committees by agreeing to H.Res. 118 on Mar. 20, 1979. The select
committee took its popular name from its chair, Rep. Jerry Patterson.
45 H.Res. 5, agreed to in the House Jan. 4, 2005.
Jurisdiction and the referral of legislation are closely related, and the House has
resolved some jurisdictional questions with rules on referral. The cornerstone of the
House’s referral system is a directive to the Speaker, who refers legislation in the
House. The Speaker is to refer legislation so as to —
... ensure to the maximum extent feasible that each committee that has
jurisdiction under clause 1 of rule X [the clause and rule spelling out each
committee’s jurisdiction] over the subject matter of a provision thereof [of a
measure to be referred] may consider such provision and report to the House46
Making legislative policy in the House, therefore, often requires the referral of
legislation to more than one committee.
Primary Committees. To deal with the situation of several committees
having a jurisdictional claim to a measure, the House at the beginning of the 104th
Congress directed the Speaker to designate a “primary” committee in referring
measures and to designate other committees to receive referral in addition, or
sequentially.47 A committee receiving the referral sequentially usually does so for the
consideration of only those provisions within its jurisdiction.
In the 108th Congress, the Speaker was given discretion not to designate a
primary committee when he “determines that extraordinary circumstances justify
review by more than one committee as though primary.”48 The Speaker also has
other referral options in order to allow each committee with a jurisdictional claim to
have an opportunity to review a piece of legislation, and he may set “appropriate time
limitations” on a referral.49
So, for example, in referring legislation that ultimately resulted in enactment of
the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998,50 the Speaker designated the
International Relations Committee as the primary committee since the bill dealt
primarily with relations between the United States and other nations.
Although, when enacted, the bill would largely add to the foreign-policy work
of the State Department, the scope of legislative policy contained in the bill as
introduced was broader than the legislative jurisdiction of the International Relations
46 House Rule XII, cl. 2(b). See Sec. 101 of H.Res. 988, agreed to in the House Oct. 8, 1974.
47 House Rule XII, cl. 2(c)(1). See Sec. 205 of H.Res. 6, agreed to in the House Jan. 4, 1995.
Before this change, the House allowed the Speaker to make a joint referral of a measure to
two or more committees for concurrent consideration; other forms of referral were also
allowed and are generally in effect today. See Sec. 101 of H.Res. 988, agreed to in the
House Oct. 8, 1974. Previously, the Speaker referred a measure to just one committee.
48 House Rule XII, cl. 2(c)(1). See Sec. 2(i) of H.Res. 5, agreed to in the House Jan. 7, 2003.
49 House Rule XII, cl. 2(c).
50 H.R. 2431; P.L. 105-292; 112 Stat. 2787.
Committee. The measure also contained trade sanctions and was referred “in
addition” to the Ways and Means Committee, which had jurisdiction over trade. The
Judiciary Committee had jurisdiction over immigration, so the measure was referred
“in addition” to it since the bill contained immigration provisions. The bill contained
export controls, thereby triggering the jurisdiction of what is now the Financial
Services Committee, to which it was also referred “in addition.” Finally, the measure
contained a provision that established a legislative procedure to approve a future
international agreement on religious persecution in Sudan; this process was within
the jurisdiction of the Rules Committee, to which the measure was referred “in
addition.” With regard to the sequential referral, the Speaker set time limits for the
committees to act.
Special Jurisdictional Protections. House rules and precedents on referral
and related procedures uniquely protect the jurisdictions of the Appropriations and
Ways and Means Committees. Appropriations bills are drafted in or referred to the
Appropriations Committee, and measures reported from other committees that51
contain new entitlement authority are referred to the Appropriations Committee.
Tax measures are drafted in or referred to the Ways and Means Committee, and a
measure that contains a tax provision is referred to the Ways and Means
Committee.52 In addition, committees other than the Appropriations Committee are
proscribed from reporting a measure “carrying an appropriation,” and appropriations
amendments to measures reported by a committee other than the Appropriations
Committee are not in order. A point of order would lie against either form of
violation.53 Likewise, committees other than the Ways and Means Committee are
proscribed from reporting a measure “carrying a tax or tariff measure,” and such
amendments to measures reported by a committee other than the Ways and Means
Committee are not in order. A point of order would lie against either form of
An example of the tax jurisdiction of the Ways and Means Committee wasth
demonstrated by the Transportation Equity Act, H.R. 3550 in the 108 Congress,
which would fund highways, highway safety, mass transit, and other transportation
programs. Funding for these programs comes from the Highway Trust Fund, which
is supported by gasoline and other taxes. While H.R. 3550 was referred to the
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and other committees to handle its
provisions, the Ways and Means Committee acted separately on the extension of the55
Highway Trust Fund and changes to the taxes supporting it.
Oversight Jurisdiction. Finally, in its rules, the House has also
distinguished between legislative and oversight jurisdiction. Several committees
51 House Rule X, cl. 1(b).
52 House Rule X., cl. 1(t).
53 House Rule XXI, cl. 4.
54 House Rule XXI, cl. 5.
55 Isaiah J. Poole, “House Panel Approves Pared-Down Bill for Highways and Transit
Projects,” CQ Weekly, vol. 62, no. 13, Mar. 27, 2004, pp. 747-748. The House passed H.R.
have oversight jurisdiction that allows them to look at the broader policy area that
contains their legislative jurisdiction. The Energy and Commerce Committee, for
example, “shall review and study on a continuing basis laws, programs, and
Government activities relating to nuclear and other energy and nonmilitary nuclear
energy research and development including the disposal of nuclear waste.”56 This
oversight jurisdiction was added in two stages, first, in relation to nuclear energy, in
1977 when the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy was dissolved, and second, in
relation to all energy, in 1980 when the House realigned committee jurisdiction over
Other examples of “special oversight functions” in Rule X include —
!“domestic educational programs and institutions and programs of
student assistance within the jurisdiction of other committees,”
within the oversight jurisdiction of the Education and the Workforce
!“operation of Government activities at all levels with a view to
determining their economy and efficiency,” within the oversight
jurisdiction of the Government Reform Committee;58 and
!“customs administration, intelligence activities relating to foreign
policy, international financial and monetary organizations, and
international fishing agreements,” within the oversight jurisdiction
of the International Relations Committee.59
In creating the Committee on Homeland Security in the 109th Congress, the
House also granted it “special oversight functions,” as follows:
The Committee on Homeland Security shall review and study on a continuing
basis all Government activities relating to homeland security, including the
interaction of all departments and agencies with the Department Homeland60
The House has also created purely oversight committees, with no legislative
jurisdiction, when it has wished to supplement the work done in one or more
committees, or when it has perceived a lack of coordination or integration of
committees’ work in a policy area. Such committees are often directed to report
findings to legislative committees. For example, in 1974, the House created a
permanent Select Committee on Aging to conduct oversight of problems of and
programs for senior citizens. The creation of the committee had been a
56 House Rule X, cl. 3(c).
57 House Rule X, cl. 3(d).
58 House Rule X, cl. 3(e).
59 House Rule X, cl. 3(g).
60 House Rule X, cl. 3(f).
recommendation extending from the 1971 White House Conference on Aging. The
committee was abolished in 1993, as mentioned earlier.61
More recently, the House created the temporary Select Committee on U.S.
National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns With the People’s Republic of
China to investigate the transfer of technology and other information and products
that contributed to enhancement of China’s military capabilities.62
The House and Senate have periodically created joint committees to study
particular matters. Some, such as the Joint Economic Committee, were created
permanently in law for a continuing purpose.63 Others were created temporarily by
resolution to study and make recommendations on a single matter. For example, the
Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress was to study the organization and
operation of Congress and recommend improvements “with a view toward
strengthening [Congress’s] effectiveness....”64 Other joint activities have been
undertaken, such as at the initiative of House and Senate committees. For example,
the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence conducted a “joint inquiry” into the “activities of the U.S.
Intelligence Community in connection with the terrorist attacks perpetrated against
our nation on September 11, 2001.”65
Finally, as mentioned earlier, Congress created the Joint Committee on Atomic
Energy in the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, and vested it with exclusive legislative
jurisdiction. While there are examples of temporary joint committees with legislative
jurisdiction, the JCAE was unique among joint committees in that it was a permanent
committee with such jurisdiction. As already mentioned, the House abolished the
committee in 1977, dispersing its jurisdiction.66
In the years since enactment of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, the
House has made many choices on its committee organization, including choosing not
61 The select committee was created in H.Res. 988, agreed to in the House Oct. 8, 1974. The
committee was terminated in H.Res. 5, agreed to in the House Jan. 5, 1993.
62 Created pursuant to H.Res. 463, which was agreed to by the House June 18, 1998.
63 The joint committee was created in the Employment Act of 1946 (60 Stat. 23, 25-26).
64 H.Con.Res. 192, on which final action occurred in the House Aug. 6, 1992. The
committee’s authorization ended Dec. 31, 1993.
65 U.S. Congress, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and House Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence, Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before andthnd
after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, report, 107 Cong., 2 sess., H.Rept. 107-
66 See CRS Report RL32538, 9/11 Commission Recommendations: Joint Committee on
Atomic Energy — A Model for Congressional Oversight?, by Christopher M. Davis.
to undertake wide-ranging reorganizations in 1974 and 1994. Most change has been
incremental, but the House has made clear decisions on a number of occasions to
expand, contract, or reaffirm the jurisdiction of various committees, and to create or
terminate committees. Through changes to the referral system, the House has added
to its flexibility in resolving jurisdictional questions. The House has also
distinguished between legislative and oversight jurisdiction, again adding to its
flexibility in resolving jurisdictional questions