Woodrow Wilson, Congressional Government, 1885.
Most matters are accomplished by Congress in committees. Each chamber of Congress has committees that are established to perform very specific functions, making it possible to accomplish complex work in much smaller groups. There are more than 150 congressional committees and subcommittees. Each is charged with a variety of different functions; however, they are all comprised of members of Congress. Although each chamber does have its own committees, there are joint committees that include members of both chambers of Congress.
Committees are chaired by a member of the majority party who is usually a senior member of Congress. Members are assigned to specific committees by their party. There is a limit to the number of committees that a member may serve in the Senate.
In most instances, congressional committees handle the passage of laws. Thousands of bills may be proposed in a single year, but only a small percentage of those are actually considered for passage (see our “Congress by the Numbers” page).
A bill that passes will typically go through four steps in committee; written comments provided by executive agencies, hearings held with witnesses testifying, the measure tweaked by the committee, and then finally the bill is sent to the full chamber for debate.
While many committees are legislative in nature, that is not the case with all committees. Some are responsible for confirming government appointees or investigating government officials while oversight committees are responsible for ensuring that government functions are carried out.
- Congressional Operations Briefing – Capitol Hill Workshop
- Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process
- Drafting Federal Legislation and Amendments
- Understanding Congressional Budgeting and Appropriations
- Advanced Legislative Procedure
CongressionalGlossary.com, from TheCapitol.Net
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