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Congressional Oversight Manual

Congressional Oversight Manual

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Published by Sunlight Foundation
he Congressional Research Service (CRS) developed the Congressional Oversight Manual over 30 years ago, following a three-day December 1978 Workshop on Congressional Oversight and Investigations. The workshop was organized by a group of House and Senate committee aides from both parties and CRS at the request of the bipartisan House leadership. The Manual was produced by CRS with the assistance of a number of House committee staffers. In subsequent years, CRS has sponsored and conducted various oversight seminars for House and Senate staff and updated the Manual as circumstances warranted. The last revision occurred in 2007. Worth noting is the bipartisan recommendation of the House members of the 1993 Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress (Rept. No. 103-413, Vol. I)
he Congressional Research Service (CRS) developed the Congressional Oversight Manual over 30 years ago, following a three-day December 1978 Workshop on Congressional Oversight and Investigations. The workshop was organized by a group of House and Senate committee aides from both parties and CRS at the request of the bipartisan House leadership. The Manual was produced by CRS with the assistance of a number of House committee staffers. In subsequent years, CRS has sponsored and conducted various oversight seminars for House and Senate staff and updated the Manual as circumstances warranted. The last revision occurred in 2007. Worth noting is the bipartisan recommendation of the House members of the 1993 Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress (Rept. No. 103-413, Vol. I)

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Published by: Sunlight Foundation on Jan 18, 2011
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CRS Report for Congress
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Congressional Oversight Manual
Frederick M. Kaiser
Specialist in American National Government
Walter J. Oleszek
Senior Specialist in American National Government
Todd B. Tatelman
Legislative Attorney January 6, 2011
Congressional Research Service
7-5700www.crs.govRL30240
 
Congressional Oversight ManualCongressional Research Service
Summary
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) developed the
Congressional Oversight Manual
over30 years ago, following a three-day December 1978 Workshop on Congressional Oversight andInvestigations. The workshop was organized by a group of House and Senate committee aidesfrom both parties and CRS at the request of the bipartisan House leadership. The
 Manual
wasproduced by CRS with the assistance of a number of House committee staffers. In subsequentyears, CRS has sponsored and conducted various oversight seminars for House and Senate staff and updated the
 Manual
as circumstances warranted. The last revision occurred in 2007. Worthnoting is the bipartisan recommendation of the House members of the 1993 Joint Committee onthe Organization of Congress (Rept. No. 103-413, Vol. I):
[A]s a way to further enhance the oversight work of Congress, the Joint Committee wouldencourage the Congressional Research Service to conduct on a regular basis, as it has done inthe past, oversight seminars for Members and congressional staff and to update on a regularbasis its
Congressional Oversight Manual
.
Over the years, CRS has assisted many Members, committees, party leaders, and staff aides in theperformance of the oversight function, that is, the review, monitoring, and supervision of theimplementation of public policy. Understandably, given the size, reach, cost, and continuinggrowth of the modern executive establishment, Congress’s oversight role is even moresignificant—and more demanding—than when Woodrow Wilson wrote in his classic
Congressional Government 
(1885): “Quite as important as lawmaking is vigilant oversight of administration.” Today’s lawmakers and congressional aides, as well as commentators andscholars, recognize that Congress’s work, ideally, should not end when it passes legislation.Oversight is an integral way to make sure that the laws work and are being administered in aneffective, efficient, and economical manner. In light of this destination, oversight can be viewedas one of Congress’s principal responsibilities as it grapples with the complexities of the 21
st
 century.
 
Congressional Oversight ManualCongressional Research Service
Contents
Purposes, Authority, and Participants...........................................................................................1
 
Purposes...............................................................................................................................1
 
Ensure Executive Compliance with Legislative Intent.....................................................1
 
Improve the Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Economy of Governmental Operations..........1
 
Evaluate Program Performance.......................................................................................2
 
Prevent Executive Encroachment on Legislative Prerogatives and Powers.......................2
 
Investigate Alleged Instances of Poor Administration, Arbitrary and CapriciousBehavior, Abuse, Waste, Dishonesty, and Fraud............................................................2
 
Assess Agency or Officials’ Ability to Manage and Carry out Program Objectives...........2
 
Review and Determine Federal Financial Priorities.........................................................2
 
Ensure That Executive Policies Reflect the Public Interest...............................................3
 
Protect Individual Rights and Liberties............................................................................3
 
Other Specific Purposes..................................................................................................3
 
Authority to Conduct Oversight............................................................................................4
 
United States Constitution...............................................................................................4
 
Principal Statutory Authority...........................................................................................5
 
Responsibilities in House and Senate Rules...................................................................10
 
Congressional Participants in Oversight..............................................................................13
 
Members and Committees.............................................................................................13
 
Staff of Member Offices and Committees......................................................................14
 
Congressional Support Agencies and Offices.................................................................14
 
Oversight Coordination and Processes.......................................................................................15
 
Oversight Coordination.......................................................................................................15
 
General Techniques of Ensuring Oversight Coordination Include..................................15
 
Specific Means of Ensuring Oversight Coordination Include.........................................16
 
Oversight Processes............................................................................................................16
 
The Budget Process.......................................................................................................16
 
The Authorization Process.............................................................................................17
 
The Appropriations Process...........................................................................................18
 
The Investigatory Process.............................................................................................19
 
The Confirmation Process.............................................................................................20
 
The Impeachment Process.............................................................................................21
 
Investigative Oversight.............................................................................................................23
 
Constitutional Authority to Perform Oversight and Investigative Inquiries...........................23
 
Authority of Congressional Committees..............................................................................24
 
Committee Jurisdiction.................................................................................................24
 
Legislative Purpose.......................................................................................................25
 
Legal Tools Available for Oversight and Investigations........................................................27
 
Subpoena Power...........................................................................................................28
 
Deposition Authority.....................................................................................................29
 
Hearings.......................................................................................................................30
 
Congressional Immunity...............................................................................................31
 
Enforcement of Congressional Authority.............................................................................32
 
Contempt of Congress...................................................................................................32
 
Perjury and False Statement Prosecutions......................................................................34
 
Limitations on Congressional Authority..............................................................................35
 

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