You are on page 1of 2

Woodrow Wilson once said “it is not far from the truth to say that Congress in session is Congress

on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work”. Congressional committees help to carry out Congress’s legislative, oversight, and internal administrative tasks. Although it makes the government efficient they usually undermine representation, limited government, and majority rule. Furthermore, committees act as Congressional safety valves, ready to cut off dangerous rules, procedures, and acting as outlets for frustrations and interests. Article I, Section V of the Constitution lays out the membership, rules, journals, and adjournment of Congress. “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceeding” means that the houses rules for committees are not specified. Rather, they are determined by Congress. In fact, a House Committee was appointed on April 2, 1789 to “prepare and report such standing rules and orders of proceeding”. Soon, Congress realized the need for broader powers to be held by Congress. One was a three member committee on April 29 “to prepare and report an estimate of supplies...and of net produce of the impost”. On July 24 that same year, the Committee on Ways and Means was created following a debate on the creation of the Treasury Department. This committee originally existed for 2 months, but later became a standing committee. Committees such as the Appropriations Committees recommend legislation to provide the budget authority for federal agencies and programs. Committees in this day in age gather information, compare and evaluate legislative alternatives, identify public policy problems, propose solutions to those problems, select, determine, and report measures for full chamber consideration, exercise their oversight, and investigate into allegations. Government becomes decentralized, majority rule and representation are hampered by Congressional committees. Congressional committees help keep officials in check, such as the House Judiciary Committee that investigated Watergate. They also keep oversight of their selected programs, such as the Appropriations committee over Social Security, thus ensuring a generally competent government. However, Chairmen such as Charlie Rangel abuse their power and committees such as the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee represent a bureaucratic and overreaching government--one reason why in 1994 Newt Gingrich attempted to eliminate committees and reduce the power of chairmen, including successfully term limiting chairmen to six years. Majority rule is weakened because as committees gain strength, only a handful of representatives do. In 1972, there were about 24 liberal senators, but among them they held 44 sub committee chairmanships. The chairmen of committees also hold an unfair amount of sway over pigeonholing, or simply not sending a bill to Congress, although it can be brought out with a ⅔discharge petition. He presides over all meetings, maintains order and decides all questions of order subject to appeal, prepare and have custody of all papers, keep the committee “on track and on time”, call forth executive meetings, and call the committee together to “properly preform” all functions. All these actions allow him to hold large influence in deciding how legislation is passed. Committees act as safety valves for Congress. Since the chairmen can decide when to hold up legislation for a vote, he can also prevent plainly bad measures from even coming to a vote. This generally benefits the people as legislation can be refined. Interest groups also have the

Congressional Committees have served important roles in carrying out Congress’s legislative and administrative authorities and have allowed Congress to remain a deliberative body. but they have also contributed to a limited government by dispersing power and diverting power from the Speaker. thus holding back representation and true majority rule.ability to influence legislation if they maneuver it through the committee. they have served their purpose: not as Congress’s right arm. Finally. Ironically. such as the Committee on the Judiciary make investigations regarding officials. Committees also carry out investigations and hearings. . such as the Agricultural Committee’s hearing with Stephen Colbert. Committees. Since our government’s inception. They have served for the good of the people. but as its core. they have given power to Chairmen. Although Committees have changed since 1789 and even 1994.