House Committee Chairs: Considerations, Decisions, and Actions in a New Congress

House Committee Chairs:
Considerations, Decisions, and Actions
In a New Congress
Updated October 30, 2008
Judy Schneider
Specialist on the Congress
Government and Finance Division
Michael L. Koempel
Senior Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division

House Committee Chairs: Considerations,
Decisions, and Actions in a New Congress
A committee chair serves as the leader of a committee, with responsibility for
setting the course and direction of the panel for committee members and the House
and for managing a large professional and paraprofessional staff. The senior
committee staff should ensure the chair’s goals are carried out effectively.
Once a committee chair is selected during the post-election transition period, he
or she, often in consultation with others, makes a series of decisions and takes a
series of actions. Some of the decisions are related to the committee’s policy
calendar; others to the committee’s administrative functions; others to the chair’s
responsibilities during committee sessions; others to the role of committee members;
others to the relationship with the committee’s ranking minority member, other
chairs, and party leaders; and still others related to subcommittee leaders.
Specifically, a committee chair controls the selection of committee staff,
authorizes expenditures from the committee budget, establishes operational and
ethics policies, determines committee travel allocations, decides the content of the
committee website, and is responsible for administration of the committee’s rooms,
paperwork, and other operations. Most committees entrust the drafting of the budget
to the committee chair, although a committee’s minority party members seek to
ensure that they receive an appropriate allocation of resources. Before the chair
introduces a funding resolution, the committee approves the chair’s draft budget.
The House requires its committees to adopt committee rules and to publish
those rules in the Congressional Record not later than 30 days after the committee
is elected. A committee chair normally prepares any changes to the rules under which
the committee operated in the previous Congress, and proposes the number of
subcommittees for the committee. Under House rules, a committee must approve its
proposed rules.
A committee chair establishes the committee agenda, calls hearings, selects
witnesses and determines the order of their testimony, presides over hearings and
markups, chooses the markup vehicle and pursues an amendment strategy, prepares
the committee report accompanying legislation, and discusses, or might negotiate,
any of these matters with the ranking minority member. The chair maintains order
and decorum during committee meetings, and takes various steps to protect the
committee’s jurisdiction in the referral of legislation and other matters. When a
measure is reported by a committee, it is the responsibility of the committee chair to
consult the party leadership to determine floor scheduling for the measure.
This CRS report was first published as a CRS congressional distribution
memorandum on October 30, 2006. The memorandum was revised and updated for
publication as a CRS report. It will be further updated as House rules and other
changes require.

Introduction ..................................................1
Transition (Early Organization to Swearing-in)......................2
End-of-a-Congress Activities.................................4
Administrative Matters.........................................5
Committee Budget (Expense Resolution).......................5
Staff ....................................................6
Travel ...................................................8
Website .................................................8
Committee Organization........................................8
Subcommittee Structure.....................................8
Vice Chair...............................................9
Committee Rules..........................................9
Administrative Matters in Support of Committee Work...........10
Committee Procedure and the Role of the Chair.....................11
Hearings ................................................11
Markups and Reporting....................................12
Subcommittee Authority...................................13
Procedural Tools for Committee Chairs...........................13
Maintaining Order and Decorum.............................13
Protecting Committee Jurisdiction............................14
Floor Consideration and the Role of the Chair......................15
Legislative Issues and Agenda...................................16
State of the Union........................................16
President’s Budget........................................17
Budget Resolutions, Views and Estimates, and Appropriations.....18
Expiring Authorizations....................................20
Committee Legislative Priorities.............................22
Oversight and Investigations................................22
Approving/Disapproving Executive Proposals..................25

House Committee Chairs: Considerations,
Decisions, and Actions in a New Congress
Each individual Member serves as the leader of his or her personal office. In
contrast, a Member who is a committee chair serves in addition as the leader of a
committee, with responsibility for setting the course and direction of the panel for
other Members and the House as well as having responsibility for a large professional
and paraprofessional staff. The senior committee staff are the operational managers
who should ensure that all of the duties and activities supporting the chair’s goals are
carried out effectively.
Once a committee chair is selected during the post-election transition period, the
chair, often in consultation with others, makes a series of decisions and takes a series
of actions. Some of the decisions are related to the committee’s policy calendar,
others to the committee’s administrative functions, others to the chair’s
responsibilities during committee sessions, others to the role of committee members,
others to the relationship with the committee’s ranking minority member, other
chairs, and party leaders, and still others related to subcommittee leaders.
This report addresses some of the critical matters a House committee chair
confronts from the time of the early organization meetings in November to
approximately the spring district work-period in March or April. The report is
divided into the following sections: Transition, Administrative Matters, Committee
Organization, Committee Procedure and the Role of the Chair, Procedural Tools for
Committee Chairs, Floor Consideration and the Role of the Chair, and Legislative
Issues and Agenda. Each section is divided into more specific topics. Actions with
an identifiable deadline appear in bold type.
This report contains numerous citations to House rules, which may be found,
along with the parliamentarian’s notes, in Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual, and
Rules of the House of Representations of the United States, One Hundred Tenth
Congress.1 An explanatory document of House rules and precedents, arranged by
subject-matter, is House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents, and Procedures
of the House.2 The Congressional Research Service (CRS) maintains a wide-ranging

1 U.S. Congress, House, Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual, and Rules of the House of
Representatives of the United States, One Hundred Tenth Congress, H.Doc. 109-157, 109thnd
Cong., 2 sess. , prepared by John V. Sullivan, Parliamentarian (Washington: GPO, 2007).
Hereinafter House Manual.
2 Wm. Holmes Brown and Charles W. Johnson, House Practice: A Guide to the Rules,

set of reports — both in format or coverage and in subject matter — on the legislative
process and congressional procedures, including the budget process and budget
procedures, and on hundreds of legislative issues are available on the CRS website,
[] .
The Office of the Parliamentarian is the official source of parliamentary advice
for committees, although parliamentarians do not attend committee meetings to assist
the chair as they attend meetings of the House and serve the presiding officer. CRS’s
specialists and analysts on Congress also assist committees, Members, and staff with
confidential consultations and memoranda on parliamentary strategy and procedures.
CRS policy specialists and analysts may assist committees, Members, and staff
confidentially in framing policy issues, developing legislative options, planning
hearings, and providing written and oral policy and legislative analyses in all stages
of the legislative process.
Transition (Early Organization to Swearing-in)
The House usually meets for so-called early organization in November, just a
week or so after the election, with organizational activities continuing into December
and even into January or later.3 The November meetings usually occur
simultaneously with the orientation activities planned for Members-elect, and could
overlap with a lame-duck session.
The “steering committee” for each party, or the specific party entity responsible
for committee assignments, traditionally is constituted during the early organization
meetings.4 If one or more committee chairmanships are contested, the majority
party’s steering committee may conduct interviews during the early organization
meetings.5 Each party’s steering committee makes most committee assignment
recommendations during early organization, although that process may take longer6
as the majority and minority parties negotiate committee party ratios. In some

2 (...continued)
Precedents, and Procedures of the House (Washington: GPO, 2003). Messrs. Brown and
Johnson are former parliamentarians of the House. See also CRS Report RL30787,
Parliamentary Reference Sources: House of Representatives, by Richard S. Beth and Megan
Suzanne Lynch.
3 House Manual, pp. 995-998. See CRS Report RS21339, Congress’s Early Organization
Meetings, by Judy Schneider.
4 See CRS Report RS21165, House Standing Committee Chairs and Ranking Minority
Members: Rules Governing Selection Procedures, by Judy Schneider.
5 A House rule contains term limits of three consecutive Congresses for committee and
subcommittee chairs. House Rule X, cl. 5(c)(2). The House may waive or terminate the
operation of this rule for one or more committee chairs through a change to its rules. Forth
example, in agreeing to H.Res. 5, adopting the rules for the 109 Congress, the House
terminated the operation of this limit for the chair of the Rules Committee. Section 2(c) of
H.Res. 5, agreed to in the House January 4, 2005.
6 A House rule limits Members to service on two standing committees and four

instances, the party’s leader — the Speaker or minority leader — is the appointing
official for members, or some members, of certain committees; the Speaker, as her
party’s leader, is the appointing official for certain chairs.7
The Democratic Caucus and Republican Conference meet to confirm the
recommendations of their respective steering committees and party leaders. The
majority party tries to complete the chairmanship selection process during this
transition period. The official election of Members to committees occurs after the
new Congress convenes, with the adoption of one or more House resolutions making
committee assignments. These resolutions are usually routinely voted on without
debate within the first few days of a new Congress. Designation of the committee
chairs and ranking minority members, whose names appear first on their party’s
roster for each committee, occurs with the adoption of the committee assignment
As committee chairs are determined during early organization meetings or
thereafter, the selection process for subcommittee chairs may also begin. Applicants
for subcommittee chairmanships might meet with their committee’s chair, or even
a prospective chair. Because of the Speaker’s influence, as party leader, with
committee chairs over the selection of some subcommittee chairs, applicants might
also consult the party leader. In the selection process for some subcommittee chairs,
including those of Appropriations Committee subcommittees, the party leader is
much more directly involved.9
The Democratic Caucus and Republican Conference also discuss their internal
(party) rules during the early organization meetings, possibly amend them, and, if
time permits, adopt them. Committee chairs monitor developments in their party’s
organization that impact their committee’s structure and operations, and might offer
their own amendments to party rules to protect their panel’s interests.
During early organization meetings, the House Rules Committee also begins
consideration of possible modifications to the rules of the House for the new

6 (...continued)
subcommittees of standing committees, although this rule is sometimes tacitly waived in
House agreement to committee assignment resolutions. House Rule X, cl. 5(b)(2). Delegates
and the Resident Commissioner are treated as Members in the making of committee
assignments. Rule III, cl. 3. See also CRS Report 98-151, House Committees: Categories
and Rules for Committee Assignments, by Judy Schneider.
7 In addition, the Speaker appoints Members to select, joint, and conference committees
“ordered by the House.” House Rule I, cl. 11.
8 House Rule X, cl. 5(a)(1) (resolution on standing committee assignments); Rule X, cl.

5(c)(1) (designation of chairs); Rule X, cl. 5(a)(2) (membership of the Budget Committee);

Rule X, cl. 5(a)(3) (membership of the Standards of Official Conduct Committee); and Rule
X, cl. 11(a) (membership of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence). Rule X, cl.
5(e) provides for the filling of vacancies on standing committees. Membership in a party
caucus or conference is required for a Member to retain his or her committee assignments.
Rule X, cl. 5(b)(1) and cl. 10(a).
9 See CRS Report 98-610, House Subcommittees: Assignment Process, by Judy Schneider.

Congress. If the House is meeting in a so-called lame-duck session during early
organization meetings, the Rules Committee might hold hearings on potential House
rules changes. Outgoing chairs, retiring Members, chair candidates, and other
Members may be included as witnesses. Committee chairs are often active
participants in the drafting stage of changes to House rules since any changes to
committee assignments (including term limits and assignment limits), committee
jurisdictions, committee procedures, and other rules can have a direct effect on
certain, many, or all committees.10
On the day it convenes,11 the new House agrees to a simple resolution,
traditionally numbered H.Res. 5, that adopts chamber rules for the duration of
the new Congress.12 The resolution normally is worded to adopt the rules of the
previous Congress with a series of specific amendments to them, effective with the
House’s agreeing to the simple resolution.13
(See also the Legislative Issues and Agenda section below related to
committees’ planning for legislative and oversight activities that may occur during
the post-election transition.)
End-of-a-Congress Activities. As a two-year Congress ends, House rules
and practice require committees to publish certain documents and to prepare records
for the National Archives. These activities are usually brought to a conclusion during
the post-election transition period.
Activities Report. Under House rules, each committee must submit an
activities report to the House by January 2 of each odd-numbered year.14 Such
a report is to contain sections summarizing a committee’s legislative and oversight
activities in the preceding two-year Congress. There are specific requirements for
what is reported on oversight. In addition, committee members may file
supplemental, minority, or additional views.

10 The Democratic Caucus and Republican Conference traditionally send letters to their
respective Members in September and October before the election to solicit suggestions for
House and party rules changes. The Rules Committee often sends a letter to all Members
soliciting suggestions for House rules changes. See also CRS Report RL32661 (archived),
House Committees: A Framework for Considering Jurisdictional Realignment, by Michael
L. Koempel, and CRS Report RL34293, Resolving House Committee Jurisdictional
Disputes: A Survey of Options, by Walter J. Oleszek.
11 A new Congress convenes January 3 of each odd-numbered year, although Congress may
set a different convening day. U.S. Const. amend. XX, § 2.
12 In the 110th Congress, the rules resolution was numbered H.Res. 6, agreed to in the House
January 5, 2007.
13 See CRS Report RL33610 (archived), A Retrospective of House Rules Changes Since the

104th Congress, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider, and CRS Report RS22580,th

Committee System Rules Changes in the House, 110 Congress, by Judy Schneider.
14 House Rule XI, cl. 1(d).

Committee Calendar. Although committees are not required by House rules
to publish a calendar, all committees do, except for the Appropriations, House
Administration, and Standards of Official Conduct Committees. A committee
calendar lists all measures referred to the committee during a Congress, the
committee’s actions on them, and congressional action on measures the committee
reported. A calendar may also include the committee’s rules, a statement of the
committee’s jurisdiction, rosters of the committee and its subcommittees, rosters of
committee staff, and other information.
Committee Records. Committee records are the property of the House, and15
must be kept separate from the office records of a committee chair. At the end of
a Congress, each committee is required to transfer its noncurrent records to the clerk16
of the House for transfer to the National Archives. These two rules also establish
standards for public availability of records, under certain circumstances allowing
committees to determine restrictions on availability.
Administrative Matters
A committee chair controls the selection of committee staff, authorizes17
expenditures from the committee budget, establishes operational and ethics policies,
determines committee travel allocations, decides the content of the committee
website, and is responsible for administration of the committee’s rooms, paperwork,
and other operations.
Committee Budget (Expense Resolution). One of the first orders of
business for a committee is the drafting of a committee budget to pay the expenses
the panel will incur during a two-year Congress. Most committees entrust the drafting
of the budget to the committee chair, although a committee’s minority party members
seek to ensure that they receive an appropriate allocation of resources. Typically
working from the committee’s budget in the previous Congress, the chair modifies
the previous budget to create a funding request reflecting the committee’s anticipated
resource needs. The structure and content of committees’ budget requests have
changed very little in recent years. A committee’s budget details staff salary18
requirements and expenses, such as reimbursements, and costs for consulting
services, printing, office equipment, supplies, subscriptions, travel, and other items.

15 House Rule XI, cl. 2(e)(2).
16 House Rule VII.
17 See CRS Report RL34166, Lobbying Law and Ethics Rules Changes in the 110th
Congress, by Jack Maskell.
18 Personnel overhead costs, such as contributions for retirement, health insurance, and life
insurance, are not specifically charged to committee budgets. U.S. Congress, House
Administration Committee, Committees’ Congressional Handbook, available online at
[], visited September 10, 2008. Referred to
hereafter as Committees’ Congressional Handbook, this document contains the House
Administration Committee’s regulations that govern expenditures from committee funds.

Each committee meets to approve its budget request, and Members may propose
changes to the draft before a vote on approval. Following a committee’s approval,
the committee chair will typically introduce a House resolution, usually in late
February or early March, to provide his or her committee with funding for the
two years of a Congress. Once a resolution is introduced, the chair provides
electronic and hard copies of the budget request, as well as any supporting
documentation, to the House Administration Committee, to which the individual
committees’ resolutions are referred. The chair and ranking minority member of each
committee may be invited to testify before the House Administration Committee in
support of their committee’s budget request.
The chair of the House Administration Committee introduces an omnibus
committee funding resolution, called a “primary expense resolution” in House rules.
The House Administration Committee marks it up and reports it to the House. The
House traditionally acts on the omnibus committee funding resolution in late19
House rules also allow a primary expense resolution to contain a reserve fund
for unanticipated expenses of committees. The House Administration Committee
makes allocations from such a fund.20 House rules also allow for the possibility of
one or more supplemental expense resolutions.21
By the 18th of each month, each committee is directed to submit to the
House Administration Committee an original and two copies of a report signed
by the committee chair that contains a statement of expenses and other specific22
information on the committee’s activities during the preceding month. House
rules require funds made available to a committee to be used for the activities of the23
Staff. Decisions on the structure and organization of a committee staff rest with
the committee’s chair. A determination of a committee’s staffing needs, including
how the committee will staff its subcommittees, is integral to the creation of a
committee budget. With regard to subcommittee staffing, a House rule states: “...the
chairman of each committee shall ensure that sufficient staff is made available to
each subcommittee to carry out its responsibilities under the rules of the

19 House Rule X, cl. 6 provides for primary expense resolutions. Rule X, cl. 7 provides for
interim funding for the period between January 3 and March 31 in each odd-numbered year.
Under this rule, for each of these three months, committees are entitled to up to nine percent
of the total annual amount made available to them in expense resolutions in the preceding
session of Congress. See CRS Report RL32794, House Committee Funding Requests andthth
Authorizations, 104 -110 Congresses, by R. Eric Petersen.
20 House Rule X, cl. 6(a).
21 House Rule X, cl. 6(b).
22 Committees’ Congressional Handbook.
23 House Rule X, cl. 6(e). See also Rule X, cl. 9(b) related to a committee’s use of its staff.

committee....”24 Committee chairs have implemented this requirement in different
ways. Some chairs provide autonomous staff to their committee’s subcommittees,
while others maintain staff at the full-committee level and detail staff to
subcommittees as needed.
The same House rule states: “...the chairman of each committee shall
ensure...that the minority party is treated fairly in the appointment of...staff.”25
Another House rule indicates that the minority party is entitled to one-third of the up
to 30 so-called statutory staff provided under the rule, or 10 staff if a committee hires
30 staff.26 Negotiation between the committee chair and the minority, presumably the
ranking minority member, could result in additional staff being available to the
The committee’s ranking minority member is ostensibly responsible for
minority staff. However, there are occasions where the committee chair exerts
control, for example, in authorizing travel and approving other activities detailed in
committee rules or office manuals.
Most functions performed by committee staff, and the job titles given committee
staff, are similar among committees. A staff director serves as the overall manager
of a committee’s staff, acts as liaison between the chair and staff, and is the chair’s
closest policy adviser. (On the Appropriations Committee and its subcommittees,
staff directors have been called clerks.) A chief counsel generally serves as the legal
counsel for the committee. This staff member often may also serve as the panel’s
parliamentarian. If a counsel does not have the parliamentarian role, the practice of
most committees is to hire a professional staff member to serve in that capacity.
Professional policy staff, also called counsel by some committees, serve as issue
experts covering the policy areas over which the committee has jurisdiction. A chief
clerk and other clerks, referred to as administrative staff, serve as document
managers, Web masters, calendar clerks, receptionists, and the like. The committee
majority negotiates with the minority regarding the division of administrative support
In addition to the monthly expense report mentioned above, each committee
chair certifies a payroll certification form for the committee and transmits it to

24 House Rule X, cl. 6(d).
25 Ibid.
26 House Rule X, cl. 9(a). Additional rules applicable to minority staff are contained in Rule
X, cl. 9(f), (g), and (h). Additional rules applicable to committee staffing are contained in
Rule X, cl. 9(c) and (e). Staffing for the Appropriations Committee is covered by Rule X,
cl. 9(d). A committee may also have nonpartisan staff. Rule X, cl. 9(i). A specific rule on
nonpartisan staff applies to the Standards of Official Conduct Committee. Rule XI, cl. 3(g).
27 An additional control on committee staff size is exercised by the Speaker: “The Speaker
sets a staff ceiling for each committee which may not be exceeded unless specifically
authorized by the Speaker.” In addition: “Annual rates of pay may not exceed the amount
specified in the Speaker’s Pay Order.” Committees’ Congressional Handbook.

the Human Resources Office no later than the 18th day of each month.28 The
committee chair is also responsible for signing any contracts for consultants and
authorizing staff detailed from government departments or agencies.
Each committee is also provided parking permits for up to 80 percent of the
committee’s staff; 60 percent of the spaces provided are indoor and 40 percent are
outdoor. The committee chair designates to whom parking spaces are allocated, and
whether indoor spaces will be reserved or unreserved.
Travel. Committee chairs prepare on a quarterly basis a consolidated
report of spending for foreign travel by committee members and employees and
provide the report to the clerk of the House.29 A House rule governs foreign travel
and requires committee members and staff to report to a committee’s chair within 60
days of completing foreign travel.30
Website. Each committee has a website, and each committee’s website is
different. Decisions on the design, content, and minority’s input reside with a
committee’s chair. The minority, and individual subcommittees, are entitled to
separate pages that are linked to a committee’s website and are accessible only from
the committee’s website.
Committees may not include political or campaign information on their website
or link to any campaign or political party website. Committees are restricted in the
URL they may use. Committee websites must also comply with the House
Administration Committee’s security regulations.31
Committee Organization
Subcommittee Structure. House rules identify the maximum number of
subcommittees each committee may create. No committees, except for the
Appropriations Committee and Oversight and Government Reform Committee, may
have more than five subcommittees. The Appropriations Committee is allowed not
more than 13 subcommittees and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee
is allowed not more than seven subcommittees. Committees limited to five
subcommittees are permitted to create a sixth subcommittee if it is an oversight

28 Committees’ Congressional Handbook. The Human Resources Office is a part of the
Office of the Chief Administrative Officer.
29 Committees’ Congressional Handbook.
30 House Rule X, cl. 8.
31 Committees’ Congressional Handbook. While the House Administration Committee is
responsible for rules and regulations authorizing spending and other administrative matters,
many services and support functions are provided by the Office of the Chief Administrative
Officer (CAO), for example, information technology and office furnishings. The CAO may
be contacted on the Web at [] and by telephone through the First
Call+, 225-8000 (fax: 226-6637).

subcommittee.32 However, waivers enduring for a single Congress have been granted
in H.Res. 5 (H.Res. 6 in the 110th Congress) to specific committees to allow them to
have additional subcommittees.33 As mentioned earlier, the rules changes for a new
Congress are included in a simple resolution.
A committee chair normally proposes the number of subcommittees for the
committee. However, it is the responsibility of the committee majority, acting
through the committee chair and often subject to one or more party rules, to
determine a committee’s number of subcommittees, their size and assignment of
members,34 their jurisdiction, and their authority, that is, whether they may mark up
legislation or may only conduct hearings and oversight. Further, a chair decides
whether subcommittees may hire autonomous staff or obtain staff assistance from a
centralized full-committee staff.
On some committees, subcommittee chairs are elected, or even selected, either
by the Democratic Caucus or Republican Conference or by the respective party’s
leader, often in consultation with the committee chair. In addition, pursuant to
chamber rules, a committee’s chair and ranking minority member may serve ex
officio as members of the committee’s subcommittees. Some committees’ rules allow
these ex officio members to be counted for a quorum or to vote, others do not.35
Vice Chair. House rules direct committee chairs to designate majority-party
committee and subcommittee vice chairs. No other rules seem to restrict these
choices so that, for example, a vice chair need not be the most senior majority-party
member of a committee or a subcommittee. While the selection of a committee vice
chair rests with the committee chair, the committee chair often makes choices after
consultation with party leadership. A vice chair presides over the committee or
subcommittee in the absence of the chair.36
Committee Rules. The House requires its committees to adopt committee
rules and to publish those rules in the Congressional Record not later than 3037
days after the committee is elected. Pursuant to both Democratic Caucus and

32 House Rule X, cl. 5(d). In the 110th Congress, the Appropriations Committee reorganized
to increase the number of its subcommittees to 12 from 11. See CRS Report RL31572,
Appropriations Subcommittee Structure: History of Changes from 1920-2007, by James V.
33 In the 110th Congress, for example, the Armed Services Committee was permitted not
more than seven subcommittees; the Foreign Affairs Committee, not more than seven
subcommittees; and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, not more than six
subcommittees. Section 511(b) of H.Res. 6, agreed to in the House January 5, 2007.
34 See CRS Report 98-610, House Subcommittees: Assignment Process, by Judy Schneider.
35 House Rule X, cl. 5(b)(2)(B)(i) exempts ex officio service by a chair or ranking minority
member from the limitation on subcommittee service contained in Rule X, cl. 5(b)(2)(A).
36 House Rule XI, cl. 2(d).
37 House Rule XI, cl. 2(a). In addition, Rule X, cl. 10(b) requires select and joint committees
to comply with Rule XI, cl. 2(a). Committees also often publish their rules as committee

Republican Conference rules, a committee organization meeting is usually the first
meeting held by a committee, often within a very few weeks of the convening of a
Congress. Most chairs review their committee’s rules from the prior Congress and
propose to adapt them to the committee’s perceived needs in the current Congress.
Party caucuses on each committee traditionally meet separately prior to the first
official meeting of a committee.
At a committee’s first meeting, committee rules are discussed, amended, and
adopted. For example, quorum requirements should reflect the size and ratio of the
committee, which often changes from one Congress to the next. In addition, the
relationship between the majority and minority parties should be made clear. How
much authority should the minority have in agenda-setting and other decisions, such
as the issuance of subpoenas? The use of terms such as “concurrence,”
“consultation,” or “notification” related to agenda-setting and other decisions will
describe the relationship between the majority and minority parties, or the chair and
ranking minority member, and the authority of each party. Committee rules might
also need to be amended to account for changes to House rules that affect committees
and that were contained in H.Res. 5.
Committee rules usually manifest the role and authority of the committee chair;
the ability of the majority, especially the chair, to control the agenda and legislative
actions of the committee; and the desire of party leadership to move party-favored
legislation through a committee and to the floor. Therefore, committees’ rules tend
to change only incrementally from one Congress to the next.
Specific items must be addressed in committee rules, such as the selection of a
regular meeting day, although committees have flexibility in drafting their rules.38
Under House rules, the chamber’s rules are the rules of its committees, and a
committee’s rules may not be inconsistent with chamber rules.39 If a committee’s
rules are silent on a matter, House rules apply.40
Administrative Matters in Support of Committee Work. Numerous
functions are routine in a committee office and are undertaken by staff. Nevertheless,
a committee chair can establish the environment for committee activities and direct
the staff accordingly. For example, committees have assigned meeting rooms, most
of which have a fixed dais. Beyond that, a chair may wish to make decisions about
the standard setup for hearings, markups, and other business meetings: the location

37 (...continued)
prints, and post their rules on their website.
38 House Rule XI, cl. 2(a)(1)(C) requires committees to incorporate in their rules the
“succeeding provisions” of Rule XI, cl. 2 “to the extent applicable.” Rule XI is titled
“Procedures of Committees and Unfinished Business.”
39 House Rule XI, cl. 1(a)(1)(A), and Rule XI, cl. 2(a)(1)(B), respectively.
40 For example, House Rule XI, cl. 2(g) (open meetings and hearings) and Rule XI, cl. 4
(audio and visual coverage of committee proceedings) are long, detailed statements of policy
and procedure. In their rules, a number of House committees summarize and reference, or
simply reference, these House rules.

of witness and staff tables, management of live media coverage, seating for staff on
the dais, role and duties of staff at committee meetings, assistance in the maintenance
of order in a room, items to be set at Members’ places, and so on.
Some matters, or aspects of some matters, can be routinized through checklists,
form letters, and ongoing contacts. For example, committee staff can create templates
to be used in most situations for requesting the attendance of attorneys from the
Office of Legislative Counsel, obtaining recording and transcription services from
the Office of Official Reporters, notifications to the Capitol Police, and invitations
to witnesses.
Committee Procedure and the Role of the Chair
A committee chair establishes the committee agenda, calls hearings, selects
witnesses and determines the order of their testimony, presides over hearings and
markups, chooses the markup vehicle and pursues an amendment strategy, prepares
the committee report accompanying legislation, and discusses, or might negotiate,
any of these matters with the ranking minority member.
Hearings. Under House rules, a committee chair must publicly announce
the date, place, and subject matter of a hearing in the Daily Digest section of the41
Congressional Record at least one week in advance of the date. Many hearing-
related and administrative tasks need to be performed in preparation for a hearing,42
many of which are undertaken by committee staff. The committee chair is
responsible for the selection and invitation of witnesses to testify, including
determining the order in which they will testify and whether they will appear alone
or as part of a panel. The minority, however, is entitled under the rules to also call43
witnesses. A committee chair may decide whether or not to swear a witness. House
rules require a committee chair to maintain order and decorum during committee
proceedings — recognizing committee members, responding to breaches of decorum
by a witness or of professional ethics by a witness’s counsel, and maintaining order44
in the audience.
Chairs usually make an opening statement to reiterate the purpose45 and set the
tone for a hearing and then speak last to thank witnesses for their testimony. Chairs46

also often send thank-you letters to witnesses after their appearance.
41 House Rule XI, cl. 2(g)(3). This subparagraph also allows a chair to give less notice with
the “concurrence of the ranking minority member” or by “majority vote” of the committee.
42 See CRS Report 98-488, House Committee Hearings: Preparation, by Christopher M.
43 House Rule XI, cl. 2(j)(1). See CRS Report RS22637, House Committee Hearings: The
“Minority Witness Rule,” by Christopher M. Davis.
44 House Rule XI, cl. 2(k)(4).
45 House Rule XI, cl. 2(k)(1).
46 House Rule XI, cl. 1(c) provides authority for committees to print hearings. Rule XI, cl.

Markups and Reporting. Committee chairs have primary authority for the
scheduling of a markup, selection of a markup vehicle, and conduct of a markup.
Many committee chairs caucus with their party’s committee members prior to a
markup to discuss strategy at the markup. As with hearings, many tasks need to be
performed in preparation for markups, although many of them are conducted by
st aff. 47
During markup, a committee chair often serves as the primary spokesman for
or against amendments offered to the markup vehicle. A committee chair also decides
whether to vote first or last on a recorded vote. (Chairs usually make a one-time
decision, which they stick with on most or all votes in all of their committee’s
markups.) At the end of a markup, when a committee votes to report a measure, it is
incumbent upon the chair, pursuant to House rules, to report the measure “promptly”
and to take whatever steps are necessary to secure chamber consideration of the48
The committee chair is responsible for preparation of the committee report to
accompany legislation reported from the committee as well as other committee49
reports and documents on other committee activities.
Outgoing chairs usually recommend to their successors that they hire or charge
a specific staff member with primary responsibility for procedural matters, since a
chair must follow and enforce parliamentary procedures during sittings of the
committee, sometimes with little or no notice of the parliamentary issue raised. In
addition, a chair may need advice on parliamentary rulings and strategy before,
during, and after a committee meeting. Attorneys from the Office of the
Parliamentarian of the House do not attend committee meetings, although they meet
with or take calls from committee members and staff related to committee meetings.
Confidential parliamentary training and assistance for committee and subcommittee
chairs, majority and minority members, and majority and minority staff is also
available from CRS.
Outgoing chairs also recommend to their successors that they have a procedural
script so that the chair has ready access to language to initiate or respond to common
parliamentary matters, such as recognition of a committee member to offer an

46 (...continued)
2(e)(4) directs committees to make their publications available in electronic format “to the
maximum extent feasible.” Rule XIII, cl. 4(c) contains a so-called layover rule related to the
availability of printed Appropriations Committee hearings.
47 See CRS Report 98-168, House Committee Markup: Preparation, by Judy Schneider, and
CRS Report RL30244, The Committee Markup Process in the House of Representatives, by
Judy Schneider.
48 House Rule XIII, cl. 2(b).
49 House rules pertaining to committee reports are found generally in House Rule XIII, cl.
2 - cl. 6. The House rule on the right of a Member to file supplemental, minority, or
additional views appears at Rule XI, cl. 2(l). Additional House rules pertaining to reports
of the Standards of Official Conduct Committee are found Rule XI, cl. 3. See also CRS
Report 98-169, House Committee Reports: Required Contents, by Judy Schneider.

amendment, the reservation of a point of order, or a request for a recorded vote. The
chair and committee staff also attempt to anticipate possible procedural roadblocks
prior to a markup and to prepare responses that will allow the chair and the majority
party to prevail in their legislative objectives.50
Subcommittee Authority. A committee chair usually works with other
majority-party members of the committee, and on occasion with minority-party
members, to decide what role subcommittees will play in the committee’s work.
Some questions about this role are: Will subcommittees be authorized to mark up
legislation or solely hold hearings? Will the subject matter of legislation influence
that decision? Will the role of subcommittees be uniform for all of a committee’s
subcommittees? If subcommittees mark up legislation, what form will be used to
report their work to the full committee — a letter to the full committee detailing
subcommittee action, a formal subcommittee report, the introduction of legislation
reflecting the subcommittee’s action, or some other method? Will subcommittees be
named in committee rules? What role(s) and authority of subcommittees will be
detailed in committee rules, or will the rules be silent on these matters?
As suggested earlier in this report, different committees have differing
relationships with their subcommittees; and, even within one committee, different51
subcommittees might have differing roles.
Procedural Tools for Committee Chairs
Maintaining Order and Decorum. As already indicated, committee chairs
are responsible for maintaining order and decorum in committee proceedings. They
also have parliamentary tools at their disposal to allow them to minimize delaying52
tactics. In exercising the authority and prerogatives available, a chair seeks to strike
a balance between the responsibility of the majority to govern and the rights of the
minority to be heard. Some key procedures are listed here concerning questions of
order that might arise in a committee session and the authority of the chair to respond
to them.
!The chair has discretion to recognize Members to pose a
parliamentary inquiry. He or she also has authority to decline to
entertain an inquiry if, in the chair’s judgment, the inquiry is not
relevant to the pending question.
!The chair does not need to respond to hypothetical questions raised
under the guise of a parliamentary inquiry. In addition, the chair does
not need to respond to an issue until the issue is raised.

50 See CRS Report RS20308, House Committee Markups: Commonly Used Motions and
Requests, by Judy Schneider.
51 House Rule XI, cl. 1(a)(1)(B) states: “Each subcommittee is a part of its committee and
is subject to the authority and direction of that committee and to its rules, so far as
52 House rules explicitly provide two privileged motions in committee, related to recessing
the committee and dispensing with the first reading of a measure. House Rule XI, cl. 1(a)(2).

!A parliamentary inquiry may not be used to ask a question about the
substance of a measure or amendment. The purpose of a
parliamentary inquiry is to ask a parliamentary question.
!The chair rules on points of order. Debate on a point of order is at
the discretion of the chair. A ruling on a point of order, however,
may be appealed and the appeal may be tabled.53
Protecting Committee Jurisdiction. By March 31, 2007 — in the firstth
session of the 110 Congress — 1,856 bills, 41 joint resolutions, 110 concurrent
resolutions, and 295 simple resolutions had been introduced in the House. Pursuant
to House rules on referral of legislation, nearly all of these measures were referred
to one or more House committees, with a primary committee designated for measures54
referred to more than one committee. In addition to the normal complexities
involved in determining committees’ jurisdiction over a measure, the creation of a
permanent Homeland Security Committee, which has some overlapping jurisdiction
with other standing committees, has added new uncertainties to referral decisions.
In the early days of a new Congress, when dozens of bills are introduced each
day the House is in session, committees must pay special attention to referral
decisions to ensure that referrals do not adversely affect their jurisdiction over
specific measures or over subject matter generally. Concerns or disputes, and
suggested solutions, such as re-referral or sequential referral, need to be acted on
quickly, potentially with negotiations between committees and by being brought to
the Speaker’s attention since referrals are made on the Speaker’s authority under55

House rules.
53 Two points of order that tend to arise in legislative committees’ markups relate to House
Rule XVI, cl. 7 (germaneness) and Rule X, cl. 1 (committee jurisdiction).
54 House Rule X, cl. 1 contains the principal statement of committees’ legislative
jurisdiction. These jurisdictional statements are supplemented by precedents, memoranda
of understanding, Speaker’s announcements, and other jurisdictional explanations. Rule XII,
cl. 2 is the principal House rule guiding the Speaker in the referral of bills and resolutions,
including to special committees appointed by the Speaker with the approval of the House.
Additional referral authority for the Speaker is contained in Rule XIV, cl. 2. Guidance to the
Speaker on the referral of specific types of measures or matters, such as private bills, is
contained in Rule XII, cl. 3, cl. 4, and cl. 6.
The jurisdiction of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence appears at Rule
X, cl. 11(b). The Rule X, cl. 1 jurisdiction of the Standards of Official Conduct Committee
is supplemented by Rule XI, cl. 3(a). Additional explanation of the House Administration
Committee’s jurisdiction over House officers appears in Rule II.
Additional jurisdictional protections exist in House rules for two committees. The
Ways and Means Committee’s jurisdiction is protected by Rule XXI, cl. 5. The
Appropriations Committee’s jurisdiction is protected by Rule XXI, cl. 4. The authorization-
appropriation division of labor is protected in Rule XXI, cl. 2.
55 House Rule XII, cl. 2. See CRS Report 98-175, House Committee Jurisdiction and
Referral: Rules and Practice, by Judy Schneider. Committees also need to monitor the
potential filing of a discharge petition on any measures referred to them or on special rules
referred to the Rules Committee but making in order consideration of a bill referred to a
legislative committee. House rules pertaining to the discharge process appear at Rule XV,

Floor Consideration and the Role of the Chair
When a measure is reported by a committee, it is the responsibility of the
committee chair to consult the party leadership to determine floor scheduling for the
measure.56 There are two principal routes to the floor: suspension of the rules, and a
special rule from the House Rules Committee.
If a measure is reported or ordered reported and is fairly noncontroversial, it
might qualify to be considered under suspension of the rules procedure. A committee
chair might mention at markup his or her intention to seek floor consideration by that
means. If the measure is deemed appropriate for suspension consideration, the chair
notifies the Speaker of the House of his desire for the measure to be considered under
If the measure is more contentious, or does not appear appropriate for
suspension consideration, a special rule can be sought. The committee chair writes
a letter to the Rules Committee, often co-signed by the ranking minority member,
asking the panel for a hearing on the measure. If the Rules Committee holds such a
hearing, the committee chair is traditionally the first witness to testify on behalf of
the legislation, perhaps with the ranking minority member. The chair recommends
the type of special rule sought for the measure’s consideration.
In his or her role as a floor manager, the chair determines which majority-party
Members speak on a measure, and in what order, and which Members will speak in
support of or in opposition to amendments that are allowed and offered on the floor.58
The committee chair is usually responsible for choosing, for his or her party, which
amendments will receive voice votes and which will require recorded votes. The
chair also takes a lead in raising or debating parliamentary questions.
Finally, if the measure is to be reconciled with a Senate measure, the committee
chair works with the party leadership in selecting conferees from his or her
committee and in determining the overall number of conferees to, perhaps,
accommodate other committees and individual Members. The committee chair serves
as the chair of the House delegation or may chair the conference.59

55 (...continued)
cl. 2, and Rule XIII, cl. 1(b). See CRS Report 97-552 (archived), The Discharge Rule in the
House: Principal Features and Uses, by Richard S. Beth.
56 See CRS Report 98-996 (archived), Legislative Procedures and the Legislative Agenda
in the House of Representatives, by Christopher M. Davis, and CRS Report 95-563, The
Legislative Process on the House Floor: An Introduction, by Christopher M. Davis.
57 House Rule XV, cl. 1. Two other types of legislation that are likely to be noncontroversial
and handled on the floor in a expeditious manner are privileged on certain days: Rule XV,
cl. 4 (District of Columbia legislation), and Rule XV, cl. 5 (private legislation).
58 House Rule XVII, cl. 3.
59 See CRS Report 96-708, Conference Committee and Related Procedures: An
Introduction, by Elizabeth Rybicki.

Legislative Issues and Agenda
The time before a new Congress convenes and the time immediately afterwards
are critical periods for the development of a committee’s agenda — for the next
months, the first session, and even for the two-year Congress. While some legislation
can move quickly through committee, and perhaps through the two houses of
Congress, other legislation can take many months and perhaps still not have cleared
Congress before it adjourns sine die after two years.
A committee might look back to the previous Congress, or previous Congresses,
to see what groundwork has been laid through hearings and other activities, such as
Government Accountability Office (GAO) evaluations requested, on subject matter
within the committee’s jurisdiction. A committee might also look ahead to the
current or following Congress when a major, multi-year program authorization is
expiring or when the committee wishes to report legislation to reform a major federal
program. Action in the current Congress can save time and build momentum in the
next Congress. Some committees hold retreats, sometimes with outside speakers, to
help them develop their legislative agenda.
State of the Union. The major initiatives of the President and his
administration are sometimes first announced in the annual State of the Union
address, which often occurs during the third or fourth week of January.60 These
initiatives can be new for the President, a reiteration of actions he sought in the past
from Congress, an endorsement of legislative proposals originated by Members of
Congress, a refocus to an existing set of programs, or an expansion or contraction of
a set of programs that the President’s annual budget might subsequently reflect. Many
other forms of presidential initiatives are also possible, such as the issuance of an
executive order.
A House committee’s jurisdiction might encompass one or more presidential
initiatives, and the chair and members of the committee must listen to the President’s
initiatives both as committee members and as individual Members representing their
district and party. The chair and the committee’s majority-party members are under
no specific obligation to take any action on a suggestion or request of the President
or on legislation subsequently transmitted by the President or his administration to
Congress, unless directed by the House to take an action.
Considerations of whether or not to take an action, and what that action might
be, could include —

60 It has become the practice of the House and Senate to convene for several days on January
3, or immediately thereafter, of an odd-numbered year to swear in Members and deal with
other organizational business, and then to adjourn until the week of the President’s State of
the Union message or, when there will be a presidential inauguration, until the week in
which January 20 falls. In a presidential inauguration year, the outgoing President might
submit a written State of the Union message, or he may make a broadcast farewell address
to the nation. The new President might address Congress on his legislative program later in
the winter. See also CRS Report RS20021 (archived), The President’s State of the Union
Message: Frequently Asked Questions, by Michael Kolakowski and Thomas H. Neale.

!whether the President and the House are controlled by the same
!the President’s and his administration’s commitment to an initiative,
!the chair’s and the committee’s majority-party members’ interests,
priorities, and desires,
!House leadership and majority-party sentiments,
!minority-party views,
!the role of Congress and necessity for congressional action,
!alternatives to congressional action and potential consequences of
!other matters competing for a place on the committee’s agenda,
!national, regional, local, ideological, and other political perspectives,
!public opinion,
!actions anticipated in another committee with related jurisdiction,
!actions anticipated in the other chamber.
President’s Budget. By law, the President transmits a budget for the U.S.
government after the first Monday in January but no later than the first
Monday in February.61 In its content, the budget will contain budget requests,
proposed legislative language related to specific requests, and legislative initiatives
that have budget consequences. While the President’s budget is referred to the
Appropriations Committee, less than 40 percent of new budget authority is within the
jurisdiction of the committee, and it has no jurisdiction over revenues or debt.
Particular budget requests and legislative initiatives, including changes to entitlement
and revenue laws, are within the jurisdiction of specific legislative committees.
Legislative proposals in support of the President’s budget recommendations might
not be submitted until much later, yet implementation of some, many, or the major
initiatives in the President’s budget might depend on congressional passage of
legislation separate from annual appropriations bills.62

61 When a new President is to take office, the outgoing President might submit only a brief
budget document, allowing the new President to submit his own proposals for spending for
the next fiscal year. For instructions on the Fiscal Year 2010 budget to department and
agency heads from the Office of Management and Budget, see the OMB website at
[], visited September 10,
2008. See also CRS Report RS20752, Submission of the President’s Budget in Transition
Years, by Robert Keith.
A broader treatment of issues of concern to Congress and its agenda during and
immediately following presidential transitions can be found in CRS Report RL34722,
Presidential Transitions: Issues Involving Outgoing and Incoming Administrations, by L.
Elaine Halchin, Coordinator.
62 “Appropriation — (1) Legislative language that permits a federal agency to incur
obligations and make payments from the Treasury for specified purposes, usually during a
specified period of time. (2) The specific amount of money made available by such
language....The House of Representatives claims the exclusive right to originate
appropriation bills — a claim the Senate denies in theory but accepts in practice.”
“Budget Authority — The amount of money that may be spent or obligated by a
government agency or for a government program or activity. Technically, budget authority

Many of the same considerations a committee might review related to
presidential initiatives in the State of the Union address apply to the committee’s
activities related to matters within the committee’s jurisdiction in the President’s
budget. In addition, a committee might want to hold hearings or undertake other
actions to influence the appropriations process if it strongly supports or disagrees
with specific budget requests. Some committees hold budget-themed hearings
immediately or shortly after the President transmits the budget in order to hear from
relevant Cabinet secretaries and agency heads and perhaps others.
Budget Resolutions, Views and Estimates, and Appropriations.
Transmittal of the President’s budget has a noticeable, immediate impact on House
committees. Transmittal of the budget begins a season of work taking place
simultaneously in the Budget, Appropriations, and legislative, or authorizing,
committees, with parallel activities occurring in Senate committees. Under the
Congressional Budget Act, Congress is expected to complete bicameral agreement
on a concurrent resolution on the budget by April 15, although it does not usually
do so. Also under the Budget Act, the House Appropriations Committee is
expected to report all the annual appropriations bills by June 10, although it
does not usually do so.63
To prepare a concurrent resolution on the budget, the House Budget Committee
holds hearings, which include appearances by the President’s economic team of
Cabinet and Cabinet-rank officials, and receives analyses from the Congressional
Budget Office (CBO),64 among other inputs. A critical part of the committee’s
information gathering is its receipt of “views and estimates reports” from each of the
other House committees. Under the Congressional Budget Act and House rules,
House committees report their views and estimates to the Budget Committee no
later than six weeks after the President transmits his budget, which would be
no later than March 15 if the President transmits the budget on February 1.65

62 (...continued)
is statutory authority to enter into obligations that normally result in outlays. The main
forms of budget authority are appropriations, borrowing authority, and contract authority.
It also includes authority to obligate and expend the proceeds of offsetting receipts and
collections. Congress may make budget authority available for only one year, several years,
or an indefinite period, and it may specify definite or indefinite amounts.”
From Congressional Quarterly’s American Congressional Dictionary, available online
to Congress, at [], visited September

10, 2008.

63 For a substantive overview of the congressional budget process and its relationship to the
executive budget process, see CRS Report 98-721, Introduction to the Federal Budget
Process, by Robert Keith. See also CRS Report RL30297, Congressional Budget
Resolutions: Selected Statistics and Information Guide, by Bill Heniff Jr. and Justin Murray.
64 Regarding the importance of CBO’s baseline budget projections for the Budget
Committee and other House committees, see CRS Report 98-560, Baselines and
Scorekeeping in the Federal Budget Process, by Bill Heniff Jr.
65 House Rule X, cl. 4(f)(1). A CBO report integral to both the Budget Committees in their
preparation of a budget resolution and to legislative committees in their preparation of their

House committees might hold a meeting at which they consider their proposed
views and estimates reports, or might consider the proposed reports in the course of
a meeting having several agenda items. Committee chairs usually take the lead in
deciding the approach to drafting the report and the drafting itself. Not all committees
necessarily hold a meeting on their proposed views and estimates reports.66 A
committee’s views and estimates report might take the form of a letter to the Budget
Committee’s chair and ranking minority member or the form of a detailed report.
Sometimes majority and minority members of a committee submit separate views
and estimates, and sometimes individual members of a committee submit additional
or other views to supplement their committee’s report.
A report typically includes comments on the President’s budget proposals, and
estimates of the budgetary impact of any legislation likely to be considered by a
committee during the current session of Congress. A report might contain specific
comments on direct spending within a committee’s jurisdiction and could also
discuss the committee’s authorizations that require funding in annual appropriations
measures. A views and estimates report might also comment on structural and
procedural aspects of the budget that affect a committee’s jurisdiction. The Ways and
Means Committee’s views and estimates report discusses revenues and revenue and
debt legislation.
Because of the amount of work it takes for the House Appropriations Committee
to consider and draft the House’s annual appropriations bills, the appropriations
subcommittees usually begin their hearings quickly once the President transmits the
budget. Over the course of several months, each subcommittee will likely hear from
relevant Cabinet officials and other agency heads; numerous executive officials who
can speak to specific programs and activities; Members of Congress; and public
witnesses, that is, not federal government officials or employees.
The concurrent resolution on the budget establishes total spending levels. The
joint explanatory statement accompanying the conference report on the budget
resolution contains the allocation of spending among each chamber’s committees,
including the House Appropriations Committee. The Appropriations Committee
subdivides its allocation among its subcommittees.67 If a budget resolution has not
been finally agreed to by the House and Senate, the House may adopt a “deeming
resolution,” minimally making a spending allocation to the Appropriations

65 (...continued)
views and estimates is The Budget and Economic Outlook. The current edition, The Budget
and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2008 to 2018, is available at
[], visited September 10, 2008.
66 House Rule X, cl. 4(f)(2) directs the Ways and Means Committee to include specific
recommendations on the appropriate level of public debt in its views and estimates report.
The recommendations are to be “made after holding public hearings.”
67 See CRS Report 98-512, Formulation and Content of the Budget Resolution, by Bill
Heniff Jr., and CRS Report RS20144, Allocations and Subdivisions in the Congressional
Budget Process, by Bill Heniff Jr.

Committee.68 In the absence of a budget resolution, the Appropriations
Committee may begin reporting annual appropriations bills after May 15.69
A budget resolution agreed to by both chambers might also contain
reconciliation instructions, which are provisions in a budget resolution directing
specified committees to report language within their jurisdiction that changes
revenues or spending, or both, by certain amounts, usually by a specified deadline.
If the budget resolution agreed to by the House and Senate contains reconciliation
instructions, the instructions are an order of the parent chamber to named committees
to comply. In such a case, the named committees must put reconciliation on their70
Expiring Authorizations. In establishing federal programs and agencies,
Congress often provides an authorization for a fixed period of time.71 A program, for
example, might have a one-year authorization, requiring passage of legislation each
year to continue the program, or it might have a multi-year authorization of two,
three, or more years, requiring the passage of legislation only before the end of the
specific number of years to continue the program.72 Congress also sometimes passes
legislation temporarily continuing a program for six months, a year, or some other
period in order to give itself additional time to complete passage of new multi-year
authorization legislation. These fixed-year and short-term authorizations can apply
to spending programs, tax provisions, grants of legal authority, or other matters.73

68 See CRS Report RL31443, The “Deeming Resolution”: A Budget Enforcement Tool, by
Robert Keith.
69 For a substantive overview of the appropriations process, see CRS Report 97-684, The
Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction, by Sandy Streeter.
70 See CRS Report RL33030 (archived), The Budget Reconciliation Process: House and
Senate Procedures, by Robert Keith and Bill Heniff Jr., and CRS Report RL30458, The
Budget Reconciliation Process: Timing of Legislative Action, by Robert Keith.
71 “Authorization — (1) A statutory provision that establishes or continues a federal agency,
activity, or program for a fixed or indefinite period of time. It also may establish policies
and restrictions and deal with organizational and administrative matters. (2) A statutory
provision, as described in (1), may also, explicitly or implicitly, authorize congressional
action to provide appropriations for an agency, activity, or program. The appropriations may
be authorized for one year, several years, or an indefinite period of time, and the
authorization may be for a specific amount of money or an indefinite amount (“such sums
as may be necessary”). Authorizations of specific amounts are construed as ceilings on the
amounts that subsequently may be appropriated in an appropriation bill, but not as
minimums; either house may appropriate lesser amounts or nothing at all.”
From Congressional Quarterly’s American Congressional Dictionary, available online
to Congress, at [], visited September

10, 2008.

72 CBO is required each January to issue reports on expiring authorizations and unauthorized
appropriations. See, for example, CBO Report, Unauthorized Appropriations and Expiring
Authorizations (Washington, DC: CBO, January 15, 2008), available online at
[], visited September 10, 2008.
73 Through the appropriations process, Congress may also continue programs and agencies

Legislation to “reauthorize” existing programs and agencies, and legislation
authorizing new programs and agencies, might also have failed to clear the previous
two-year Congress, and remain as potential agenda items in the current Congress.
Ushering through Congress legislation to reauthorize programs and agencies is
some of the most consequential work that legislative committees undertake each
Congress. Committees may consider authorization legislation because existing
authority is about to expire, new authority is needed to deal with new or newly
identified issues, or for other reasons. Major reauthorizations (for example, in the
110th Congress, the Higher Education Act, farm and nutrition programs, housing
programs, food safety, and Department of Defense programs) can consume a large
amount of committees’ time and effort during one or more sessions of Congress.
Reauthorizations that are arguably noncontroversial, such as for small business
programs, are nonetheless important legislative products that committees must
support with their time and effort to see them enacted into law.
Most provisions of the revenue code and the major entitlement programs
continue in effect indefinitely. To make changes in these kinds of laws, Congress
must enact new law. However, some provisions of these kinds of laws are temporary,
and Congress needs to enact new law to continue temporary provisions in effect. For
example, the research and experimentation tax credit was enacted in 1981 as a
temporary provision of the tax code; it has been extended temporarily by Congress
on 13 occasions since 1981.74

73 (...continued)
that rely on appropriations. “The separation between the two steps of the authorization-
appropriations process is enforced through points of order provided by rules of the House
and Senate. First, the rules prohibit appropriations for unauthorized agencies and programs;
an appropriation in excess of an authorized amount is considered an unauthorized
appropriation. Second, the rules prohibit the inclusion of legislative language in
appropriations measures. Third, the House, but not the Senate, prohibits appropriations in
authorizing legislation. While the rules encourage the integrity of the process, a point of
order must be raised to enforce the rules. Also, the rules may be waived by suspension of
the rules, by unanimous consent, or, in the House, by a “special rule.” If unauthorized
appropriations are enacted into law through circumvention of House and Senate rules, in
most cases the agency may spend the entire amount.”
From CRS Report RS20371, Overview of the Authorization-Appropriation Process,
by Bill Heniff Jr.
74 “Revenue — Funds collected from the public primarily as a result of the federal
government’s exercise of its sovereign powers. These include individual and corporate
income taxes, excise taxes, duties, and mandatory social insurance receipts (such as Social
Security and Medicare premiums).”
“Entitlement Program — A federal program under which individuals, businesses, or
units of government that meet the requirements or qualifications established by law are
entitled to receive certain payments if they seek such payments. Major examples include
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and military and federal
civilian pensions. Some entitlements are funded by permanent appropriations, others by
annual appropriations....Congress cannot control the expenditures for entitlement programs
by refusing to appropriate the sums necessary to fund them, because the government is
legally obligated to pay eligible recipients the amounts to which the law entitles

Each committee tries to anticipate and plan its work related to expiring
authorizations. Among the possible consequences that a committee might consider
for inaction, in addition to the possible lapse of the program or agency, are the
decline of congressional control over policy, the ceding of policy influence to the
Appropriations Committee from a legislative committee where appropriations are
necessary, the loss of jurisdiction by a committee, and the loss of influence by and
support for a committee within the House.
Committee Legislative Priorities. While the President and the executive
departments and agencies are often sources of important or high-profile legislation,
committee chairs and committee members, especially majority-party members,
establish a committee’s legislative priorities. It is their interests, sense of national
needs, political judgments, and hard work that focus a committee’s limited time on
a legislative agenda.75
In the time before a new Congress convenes and in the time immediately
afterwards, a committee chair, his or her closest allies, and the chair’s party have the
most flexibility in determining the key legislative issues that the committee will
address in the two-year time frame of a Congress. To wait to identify key legislative
issues until later in the first session allows greater opportunity for other individuals
and events to determine a committee’s agenda. To go forward without knowledge of
key legislative issues risks having exigencies and events determine the agenda and
having committee resources misallocated by looming deadlines or to lower-priority
Oversight and Investigations. One of the ways in which congressional
committees gather information for possible future lawmaking, inform committee
members communally on a topic, and influence the implementation of laws already
enacted by Congress is through the conduct of oversight — “continuous
watchfulness” in the words of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 194676 — and
especially the convening of oversight hearings. The rules of the House assign
committees responsibility for determining, based on oversight, whether laws within
their respective jurisdictions should be changed or if additional laws are necessary.77

74 (...continued)
them....Under many entitlement programs, spending automatically increases or decreases
over time as the number of recipients eligible for benefits varies. Some entitlement benefits
are indexed for inflation....”
From Congressional Quarterly’s American Congressional Dictionary, available online
to Congress, at [], visited September

10, 2008.

75 See CRS Report RS20991, Legislative Planning: Considerations for Congressional Staff,
by Judy Schneider.
76 60 Stat. 812, 832.
77 House Rule X, cl. 2. For a substantive overview of procedures and resources for
committees’ conduct of oversight, see CRS Report RL30240, Congressional Oversight
Manual, by Frederick M. Kaiser, Walter J. Oleszek, T.J. Halstead, Morton Rosenberg, and
Todd B. Tatelman. In this report, the authors list some of the purposes of oversight of the

Among the requirements for committees’ reports’ contents under House rules,
reports on measures are to include oversight findings and recommendations.78
House rules require each committee to hold an open meeting, with a quorum
present, to adopt an oversight plan for a two-year Congress by February 15 of
the first session of a Congress, and to submit the plan to the Oversight and
Government Reform Committee and the House Administration Committee.79
Committees are also directed in House rules to establish oversight subcommittees or
to assign to subcommittees responsibility for oversight.80
Preparation of an oversight plan requires immediate attention to accurately
reflect a committee’s oversight priorities. The plan, however, is not a straitjacket in
limiting oversight to subjects listed in the plan or requiring oversight action on every
subject listed. Committees have tended to include a broader set of oversight subjects
in their plans than it is likely they can cover in a two-year Congress. However,
preparation of the plan is a key opportunity for the chair, subcommittee chairs, and

77 (...continued)
executive: ensure executive compliance with legislative intent; improve the efficiency,
effectiveness, and economy of government operations; evaluate program performance;
prevent executive encroachment on legislative prerogatives and powers; investigate alleged
instances of poor administration, arbitrary and capricious behavior, abuse, waste,
dishonesty, and fraud; assess agency or officials’ ability to manage and carry out program
objectives; review and determine federal financial priorities; ensure that executive policies
reflect the public interest; protect individual rights and liberties; and other specific purposes,
such as monitoring the use of contractors and consultants for government services, and
investigating constituent complaints.
In addition to general oversight responsibilities, “special oversight functions” are
assigned to the Appropriations, Armed Services, Budget, Energy and Commerce, Education
and Labor, Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, Natural Resources, Oversight and
Government Reform, Rules, Science and Technology, Small Business, and Permanent Select
Intelligence Committees. Rule X, cl. 3. Additional oversight authority is found at Rule XI,
cl. 1(b).
The Appropriations, Budget, House Administration, and Oversight and Government
Reform Committees are assigned “additional functions” by House rules. Rule X, cl. 4(a),
(b), (c), and (d), respectively. Each standing committee is assigned responsibilities, in
conjunction with its consideration of legislation, for reviewing appropriations made for
federal programs and activities. Rule X, cl. 4(e). Each standing committee is also assigned
responsibility for reviewing tax policies affecting subjects within their jurisdiction. Rule X,
cl. 2(c).
The Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is assigned certain duties under Rule
X, cl. 11. The duties of the Standards of Official Conduct Committee are detailed in Rule
XI, cl. 3.
The Speaker may also appoint ad hoc oversight committees with House approval. Rule
X, cl. 2(e).
78 House Rule XIII, cl. 3(c)(1).
79 House Rule X, cl. 2(d)(1). Rule X, cl. 2(d)(2) directs the Oversight and Government
Reform Committee to consult chamber leaders and report the committees’ oversight plans
and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s recommendations to the House.
80 House Rule X, cl. 2(b)(2).

other committee members to determine what oversight they consider critically
important, particularly as it relates to the committee’s legislative priorities.
With an identification of critical oversight subjects, a committee can make
assignments to and establish schedules for committee staff, agency and program staff,
GAO, and other entities that support the committee in its oversight function.81
In addition, Congress has created entities, such as GAO, the inspectors general,
and CRS, that are specifically directed to inform Congress through written reports
and oral communications. Congress has also placed reporting requirements in
numerous statutes, providing Congress with an enormous flow of information from
the executive branch. These and other resources’ intellectual capital — analysts,
attorneys, other specialists, written reports, and consultative services — provide a
committee with a “running start” in establishing oversight priorities and informing
the committee about issues affecting agencies and programs within the committee’s
juri sdiction.82
Congressional oversight can be viewed as a continuum of activities that in its
most potent expression is the investigative power of Congress. Congressional
investigations might include the use of subpoenas;83 discussions with witnesses’
attorneys; witnesses invoking constitutional privileges in order not to testify;84 the
invoking of executive privilege;85 and the threat of citation, or citation, by the House
of a witness for contempt. Early and careful planning, consistent application of
committee resources, highly capable committee staff, and perseverance are some
attributes associated with successful congressional committee investigations.86

81 In addition to publishing CRS Report RL30240, Congressional Oversight Manual, the
Congressional Research Service (CRS) organized a three-day program, Congressional
Oversight: A “How-To” Series of Workshops, on June 28, July 12, and July 26, 1999.
Videotapes of all the workshop sessions are available from CRS. They are listed online, at
[], visited September 10, 2008.
Proceedings were published as a committee print: U.S. Congress, House Committee onth
Rules, Congressional Oversight: A “How-To” Series of Workshops, committee print, 106st
Cong., 1 sess., (Washington, DC: GPO, 2000).
82 See also CRS Report RL33151 (archived), Committee Controls of Agency Decisions, by
Louis Fisher, and CRS Report RS22132 (archived), Legislative Vetoes After Chadha, by
Louis Fisher.
83 Authority for committees to issue subpoenas and swear in witnesses is contained in House
Rule XI, cl. 2(m). On two related procedural matters, privilege accorded to resolutions of
inquiry is contained in Rule XIII, cl. 7, and the process for questions of privilege is
contained in Rule IX.
84 See CRS Report RL34114, Congress’s Contempt Power: A Sketch, by Morton Rosenberg
and Todd B. Tatelman, and CRS Report RL34097, Congress’s Contempt Power: Law,
History, Practice, and Procedure, by Morton Rosenberg and Todd B. Tatelman.
85 See CRS Report RL30319, Presidential Claims of Executive Privilege: History, Law,
Practice and Recent Developments, by Morton Rosenberg.
86 The Congressional Research Service (CRS) organized a day-long conference on oversight
and investigations on October 28, 2004. Archived video of all the conference sessions may

Approving/Disapproving Executive Proposals. Congress has passed a
number of laws that provide mechanisms for approving or disapproving executive
proposals. These laws sometimes address specific legislation and sometimes address
a class of proposal. For example, the President had trade negotiating authority under
the Trade Act of 2002 until June 30, 2007 (P.L. 107-210). Using this authority, the
President negotiated certain trade agreements to be considered in Congress under
expedited congressional procedures established in trade laws. Other laws, such as the
Congressional Review Act (P.L. 104-121, subtitle E), contain a procedural87
mechanism for Congress to review and disapprove proposed federal agency rules.
As a committee contemplates its agenda, it seeks to be aware of pending and
potential executive proposals that might be within the committee’s jurisdiction and
subject to congressional approval or disapproval.

86 (...continued)
be viewed or ordered online from CRS (website visited September 10, 2008): CRS Video
Tape MM70076, Oversight: A Key Constitutional Function, at [
products/multimedia/MM70076.shtml]; CRS Video Tape MM70078, Planning Investigative
Hearings: Strategic Considerations, at [
multimedia/MM70078.shtml]; CRS Video Tape MM70077, The Rules and Tools of
Oversight, at []; CRS Video Tape
MM70080, The Role of GAO and the Inspector General in Oversight, at
[]; and CRS Video Tape
MM70079, Congress Oversees the Intelligence Community, at [
products/multimedia/MM70079.shtml ].
See also CRS Report 95-464, Investigative Oversight: An Introduction to the Law,
Practice, and Procedure of Congressional Inquiry, by Morton Rosenberg.
87 For the text of public laws containing privileged procedures for congressional disapproval
of executive actions, see House Manual, pp. 1085-1256. See also CRS Report RL30599,
Expedited Procedures in the House: Variations Enacted into Law, by Christopher M. Davis,
and CRS Report RL31160 (archived), Disapproval of Regulations by Congress: Procedure
under the Congressional Review Act, by Richard S. Beth.