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July 27, 2017

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14 Year Old Child Bride Facing Death Penalty for Murdering Husband -

Saturday, November 29, 2014

BREAKING: New Coal Disaster In West Virginia -

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

U.S. Hostage Freed by Colombia’s FARC Rebels (Video) -

Monday, October 28, 2013

Here’s Why The Zimmerman Verdict Matters -

Sunday, July 14, 2013

BREAKING! UK Government Spied On Allies At TWO G20 Summits (Video) -

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Swiss Support Tougher Asylum Legislation as Refugee Numbers Spike -

Monday, June 10, 2013

American Woman Killed in Syria Fighting for Terrorists, Syrian TV Claims (Video) -

Friday, May 31, 2013

CO2 in the Air Reached its Highest Level in Human History -

Friday, May 10, 2013

Terms of the New Abortion Bill Agreed by Irish Cabinet -

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Boston In Lockdown As Manhunt Intensifies -

Friday, April 19, 2013

2 Dead, Dozens Injured After Boston Marathon Bombing -

Monday, April 15, 2013

Fast Food Workers in New York Stage Surprise Strike -

Saturday, April 6, 2013

N. Korean Rhetoric Provokes Missile Shield Deployment -

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Eyewitness Accounts from Meiktila Massacre -

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sudan to Free All Political Prisoners -

Monday, April 1, 2013

A New Free Press In Burma Juxtaposed With Genocide: The World Will Be Watching -

Friday, March 29, 2013

Pressure Builds to End Ethnic Violence in Myanmar -

Friday, March 29, 2013

Activists Demand Action As Further Genocide Looms -

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cyprus Reaches Last-Minute Bailout Deal With EU -

Monday, March 25, 2013

Myanmar Muslims Brace for Possible Genocide -

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Committees Hold the Real Power in Congress

The most powerful people in Congress aren’t elected. Learn the background behind the news.

News programs report on groups of Representatives and Senators examining witnesses.
Those sessions are usually comfortable and polite. Sometimes, they’re not. Those are congressional committee hearings.


Constitutional Authority
The Constitution doesn’t mention committees per se, but they are constitutional. Article I, Section 5, Clause 2 gives each chamber of Congress – the House and the Senate – the power to make its own rules of procedure. Congress did that by creating committees, each of which handles the issues that fall within its subject matter. Congressional committees do most of the work in Congress and are very powerful.

21 House Committees
Agriculture
Appropriations
Armed Services
Budget
Education and the Workforce
Energy and Commerce
Ethics
Financial Services
Foreign Affairs
Homeland Security
House Administration
Intelligence
Judiciary
Natural Resources
Oversight and Government Reform
Rules
Science, Space, and Technology
Small Business
Transportation and Infrastructure
Veterans’ Affairs
Ways and Means

20 Senate Committees

Standing Committees
griculture, Nutrition, Forestry
Appropriations
Armed Services
Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
Budget
Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Energy and Natural Resources
Environment and Public Works
Finance
Foreign Relations
Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Judiciary
Rules and Administration
Small Business and Entrepreneurship
Veterans’ Affairs

Special and Select Committees
Indian Affairs
Special Committee on Aging
Select Committee on Ethics
Select Committee on Intelligence

4 Joint Committees
The two houses of Congress maintain four joint committees on the economy, the Library of Congress, printing, and taxation.

Composition and Structure
The House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader – currently Rep. John Boehner(R-OH) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) – appoint the committee members. House members serve on one committee; Senators serve on three or four. Members can request committees in which they’re interested. Those with the most seniority are likely to get what they want.

Members of both political parties sit on each committee. The member from the majority party with the most seniority usually serves as chair. Committee seats go to parties in the same proportion that the parties have in Congress. So Democrats hold about 55 percent of each Senate committee and 46 percent of each House committee seats. Republicans hold the remainder – 45 percent Senate and 54 percent House. Each committee also has a few sub-committees to help manage the work load.

Purposes of Committees
Congressional Committees serve five purposes:

Advise and Consent
The Constitution’s Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 requires the Senate to advise the president on and consent to certain nominations to public office and to treaties with other nations. That’s why we see Senate committee hearings on the president’s nominees for cabinet secretaries, federal judges, and other positions. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently concluded its hearings on former Sen. John Kerry’s nomination as Secretary of State. The Armed Services Committee has been holding hearings on Charles Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense. The Judiciary Committee handles nominations for the Attorney General and for federal judges and prosecutors. After a committee sends a nomination to the full Senate for a floor vote, then all senators vote either to confirm or deny the appointment. The treaty process works the same way.

Budget
Each committee reviews, adjusts, and approves or denies budget requests and appropriations for the federal programs and agencies that fall within its jurisdiction.

Oversight
Committees review the performance of the Executive Branch departments and agencies to find out exactly how they are doing their jobs.

Legislation
Every bill introduced in Congress is numbered (HR 123, S. 345, etc.) and assigned to the appropriate committee. More than 6,000 bills are introduced to every Congress.

Ad Hoc
Congressional leaders create temporary committees as necessary. When the House and Senate pass different versions of a bill, a conference committee of representatives and senators from each relevant committee, and both parties, settle the differences.

Committee Hearings
Dozens of hearings occur every day, so hearing rooms consume plenty of space in the Capitol complex. Committees hold hearings when members want information about a bill, nominee, treaty, budget request, or oversight issue that they’re considering. They can invite – or subpoena – experts, ordinary citizens, government agency employees, and others to testify.

Witnesses swear to tell the truth, and perjury carries criminal penalties. The bits of hearings that we see on television are usually the controversial or contentious ones, but the vast majority – the ones we don’t see – are quite mundane.

Hearings are usually open to the public and transcripts are available. Look at each committee’s website for schedules and ordering information.

Committee Staff
Members of Congress have arduous workloads and grueling schedules. So they rely heavily on committee staff people. Staffers write most of the legislation in Congress. They read and summarize bills, meet with lobbyists and the public, arrange hearings, conduct research, and update committee members on issues and events. Members don’t have time to read every word of every bill, so they base their decisions on those summaries. Committee staffers are probably the most powerful group of people in the Capitol.

Watch a Hearing
I’ve testified at committee hearings at all levels of government, and it’s a profound experience. Committee websites post summaries of their hearings online. You can watch hearings – live or recorded – on C-Span. Spend a few minutes with them. It’s worth your time.

For More Information
House of Representatives Committees
Senate Committees
C-Span
Find all Congressional Information
Read the Constitution

 

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