Congress, as one of the three coequal branches of government, is ascribed significant powers by the Constitution. All Legislative Functions of US Congress in the government is vested in Congress, meaning that it is the only part of the government that can make new laws or change existing laws. Executive Branch agencies issue regulations with the full force of law, but these are only under the authority of laws enacted by Congress. The President may veto bills Congress passes, but Congress may also override a veto by a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Legislative Functions of US Congress:-
Extent of Legislative Functions:-
In spite of the importance and immensity of its non-legislative functions, after all Congress is primarily a legislature and to it the Constitution assigns all legislative power herein granted. The words herein granted have two important meanings.
In the first place, it means that consistent with the principle of limited government, the powers of Congress, too, are limited and they are enumerated in two lengthy Sections of the Constitution. There are some eighteen different categories on which it has been made competent to enact laws.
Secondly, the subjects not enumerated are beyond the authority of Congress but at the same time, the Constitution expressly details what Congress cannot do. The general conclusion is that Congress may exercise those powers which are expressly granted and not definitely prohibited by the Constitution, and the rest remain within the jurisdiction of the States.
After expressly enumerating In succession the various powers of Congress, the Constitution concludes with a sort of general grant, empowering Congress to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other, powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or officer thereof.
Within a few years after the founding of the Constitution, Congress desired to pass laws relating to matters that the Constitution did not mention particularly in connection with the proof Hamilton to establish a United States bank. Hamilton contended that the authority to establish such an institution was clearly implied, in the power to borrow money and pay the debts of the United States.
A federal bank, he asserted, was a proper, if not necessary, means for carrying into effect these important powers of Congress, just as the establishment of mint was necessary to carry out the power relating to the coinage of money. Jefferson and his associates maintained that Congress had no right to exercise any power which was not expressly conferred.
As a result of the liberal attitude which ultimately prevailed and the policy of liberal interpretation, which Chief Justice Marshall of the Supreme Court and his associates adopted, Congress has profusely relied upon the doctrine of implied powers for its authority to legislate on many important questions.
Let the end be legitimate, said Marshall speaking for the Court, let it be within the scope of the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consistent with the spirit and letter of the Constitution, are constitutional.
Implied powers are, therefore, those that may reasonably be deduced from delegated or enumerated powers or, to use the language of the Constitution, these that are necessary and proper for carrying delegated or enumerated powers into execution. Implied powers do not give the Federal Government a carte blanche to do anything it wishes. Implications can be made from some delegated or enumerated powers in the Constitution and the end should be, as Chief Justice Marshall remarked, legitimate and all means adopted to achieve that end are appropriate
But Chief Justice Marshall In MeCulloch vs. Maryland went even beyond the doctrine of implied powers when he invoked the theory of the resultant power. The result has been to strengthen the National Government in order to enable it fulfilling the great purpose for which it was created.
The doctrine of implied powers has been further cemented by the express provision in some of the Amendments that Congress shall have the power to enforce them by appropriate legislation. The General Welfare Clause has further helped the authority of Congress to expand. The Constitution provides that Congress shall have the power to provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.
It means that Federal Government possesses powers which are neither specifically enumerated nor implied, under, the constitutional provision of the common defense and general welfare of the United States. For example, when States cannot adequately handle particular problems, which fall within their jurisdiction of residual authority, then, it devolves upon the National Government, under the General Welfare Clause, to assume the power in an attempt to relieve the situation.
This opinion was supported by Justice Stone in his dissenting opinion to support the Agricultural Adjustment Act. A similar opinion was expressed in Steward Machine Company v. Davis and Helvaring . v. Davis in 1937. Justice Cardozo, delivering the majority judgment, used the General. Welfare Clause to justify the Social Security Act. Since then, Congress has legislated on many matters embracing diversified problems covered by t this mystic constitutional provision.
Reliance has also been placed on the so-called emergency powers, During the economic depression of the thirties and the World War II Congress passed emergency legislation on subjects beyond its normal jurisdiction. Congress has no emergency powers and the Constitution does not prescribe any. Nevertheless Congress has enacted laws, when the country was in the midst of economic or international crisis, which it never would have passed under ordinary circumstances, The Supreme Court, however, held that the emergency does not create power, nor does it increase power already given in the Constitutions, The powers which Congress wields at such time are not special powers. It relies on powers which it already hag, but for which there is little or no need to use ordinarily.
Thus, the powers expressly given to Congress do not convey the extent of the powers actually exercised today, Two of the eighteen express powers relate to levying taxes, spending public money, and borrowing on federal credit. The third brings in foreign and inter-state commerce.
These three items alone have been expanded so amazingly that despite the six lines of type which they require in an ordinary printed copy of the Constitution, they now constitute the basis for hundreds and even thousands of far-reaching statutes which Congress has from time to time enacted.
The Commerce clause has been invoked during the past three decades, to justify the regulation of business practices, the protection of organized labor, the regimentation of the coal-mining industry, and the stabilization of the stock and grain markets. The remaining gap was filled by the general welfare clause and the crowning event was made under common defense.
When the economic depression began there was some feeling that Congress lacked adequate powers to tide over the difficulties in which:the country was placed at that time. Today, no such fear can be entertained even remotely. Indeed, the chief apprehension in many minds at present seems to be that too much responsibility has been loaded on Congress, especially in those fields which were long left to private and state control.
The Making of Laws:-
The British and Americans, says Griffiths, are alike in their ideals as to how to legislate. Both strive to provide thorough discussion and consideration. Both are determined that the minority shall have a fair opportunity to be heard, to criticize, to offer alternatives. Both offer opportunity to criticize the administration and call it to account. And he concludes that such differences as there are in two countries are chiefly differences in procedural methods rather than in objectives. Griffiths makes two important observations here.
American procedure, he says, provides much greater legislative specialization in substance and in detail and this suits well the enormity of legislation which Congress has before it. Much of it, which in part concerns details, in Britain is left to departmental orders or private Bills. Secondly, in comparison to the simple Standing orders of the House of Commons and the precedents thereunder, Rules of Procedure and precedents in both the House and the Senate present a maze, a mystery which even those of long standing membership often find it difficult to master completely.
Each Congress in its two years of existence faces over 10,000 Bills and resolutions, of which less than 2,000 are private Bills, which follow a simplified procedure. The remaining Bills are public. A Bill introduced in the first session of a two-year Congress does not have to be re-introduced in the second session of the same Congress, With the election of the new Congress all previously introduced Bills, which have not been enacted into laws, lapse and these must be re-introduced, if need ts felt to do so, with the coming in of the new Congress.
The principal reason for this huge number of Bills is the doctrine of equality among the membership. A backbenches and a Chairman of a Committee rank equally. No distinction is also made between a minor Bill and an important measure, both are of equal importance. There is no such distinction, as it is in Britain, between a Government and a Private Member’s Bull.
The greater part of the work of the Senate and the House of Representatives is transacted through the medium of Bills or joint resolutions, There is practically no difference between the two, except that the latter are narrower in scope and more temporary in purpose. Otherwise, they are similar to Bills, undergo the same procedure and after having been passed by both the Chambers are sent to the President, and if assented to by him, have the full force of law.
But joint resolutions differ from concurrent resolutions and unicameral or simple House or Senate resolutions. Concurrent resolutions are employed to express an attitude, opinion and objective of both the Chambers. They are not submitted to the President for his approval and consequently have no legal effect unless prior enactment has been made dependent upon them.
Unicameral or simple House or Senate resolutions express the opinion, purpose, or intention of the Chamber concerned and are not to be endorsed by the other. That is to say, unicameral resolutions concern the operations of either Chamber alone and may be covered by a simple resolution, acted upon in only the Chamber concerned. Unicameral resolutions, like the concurrent resolutions, are not submitted to the President and have no legal effect.
There is a good deal of variation among Bills themselves. Some of the Bills are of fundamental importance and embody major programmes of government policy and cover important details spreading to fifty, seventy-five or even more printed pages.
Other Bills pertain to private affairs, for example, to provide pensions for widows of former Presidents, or appropriate money to pay for damages caused by post office or army trucks, The former are known as, Public Bills and the latter as Private Bills that’s they do not concern public matters.
A private Bill is primarily of interest to some individual or group of individuals and aims at their benefit. But here, too, as in the case of Bills and joint resolutions, the distinction is not always followed in practice.
There are six major stages that a public bill usually passes through before it becomes law after receiving the assent of the President:
- Drafting and introduction of the bill;
- Consideration and approval by committee in the Chamber in which the bill is introduced;
- Consideration and approval by that Chamber itself;
- Consideration and approval by committee in the second Chamber;
- Consideration and approval by the second Chamber.
Unlike Britain, where bills are introduced, sponsored and piloted by the government, there are no government bills in the United States. The government has no place in Congress and all bills, public or private, are introduced and defended by members of Congress. It does not, however mean that all proposals to enact legislation originate among the Senators or the Representatives.
Some bills have their origins primarily within Congress. They may reflect the wishes and labors of Congressmen who introduced them. Or a bill may have its birth in the deliberations of a standing committee which has given much time and consideration to the need for new legislation in a particular field. Most new tax bills are so prepared by the House Ways and Means Committee. Some Bills originate with, or at least are inspired by pressure groups, or persons outside of Congress.
But a majority of the bills come from the administration, that is, from the President or from one of the Executive Departments or independent agencies. Whatever be the source of origin, a bill must become a member’s child and he may appear in one of the Chambers as its sponsor. The Senators and the Representatives generally act as intermediaries rather than originators in the making of laws.
With very few exceptions, any member of either Chamber may introduce a bill or resolution dealing with any subject over which Congress has jurisdiction. But the Constitution requires that revenue bills be introduced in the House of Representatives, and by custom appropriation bills are so considered first by the House.
Under the Constitution, resolutions proposing the impeachment of federal officers may also be introduced in the House. The ratification of treaties, confirmation of appointments, and trial of impeachment cases are all restricted by the Constitution to the Senate, and accordingly, any motion or resolution bearing/on these matters can be presented only by a Senator.
The member introducing a bill endorses the copy with his name and drops it in the hopper, a box on the Clerk’s desk in the House and the Secretary’s in the Senate. The bill is immediately numbered and sent to the Government Printing Office and made available to members next morning at the document room. With this procedure the first stage in the career of a bill is over. The introduction of a bill by a member does not necessarily mean that he endorses it. Many bills bear the notation, By request, which means that the member has introduced the bill as a matter of courtesy.
Reference to a Committee is the next step in the legislative procedure. In the great majority of cases the bill goes to an appropriate Standing Committee of the House, into which it is introduced, automatically. The title of the bill indicates what particular Standing Committee should receive it. Before 910-11, the Speaker, in the House of Representatives determined the committee to which a Bill was to go. But Now the Speaker has been deprived of this power sometimes, however, a Bill is of such a nature that it might be referred with almost equal property to any one or two or more appropriate committee.
In all such exceptional cases, the Spear to which Committee a Bill shall be referred. But it is the accepted practice for Speakers to exercise the discretion freely and without party prejudices. In the Senate the reference to a Committee is even more automatic than in the House, because the Presiding Officer there has never had the discretionary authority to assign Bills to Committees.
In Committees, Bills are first given a preliminary examination and a decision is taken whether the proposal has merit or not. The Bills which are deemed worthy of consideration ate sorted and the rest are entrusted to the Committee files. It means, Bills meriting no consideration are pigeon-holed.
It is estimated that from 50 to 75 per cent of the Bills introduced in Congress come to final rest in Committee files and are never heard of again. The more important Bills which merit consideration are studied in details, and relevant information is gathered both from official and public sources.
The Committee may seek to obtain all the light on the subject. Specified portions cf the measure or even the whole of it may be assigned to a sub-committee. The subcommittees are very much like regular Committees, sorting the wheat from the chaff, deciding what changes should be recommended in a certain Bill, and otherwise preparing to dispose of the business entrusted to them. In 1946 Congress decided to provide a research staff for each Committee.
Committees charged with the consideration of important Bills frequently hold public meetings at which interested parties may appear and present arguments for and against the measures under consideration. In addition to the prepared statements of witnesses, numerous questions are often put by members of the Committees for the purpose of elucidating certain points or eliciting further information.
Apart from the testimony received in connection with public hearings, Standing Committees are very often subjected to outside influences. The President may himself talk personally or even write letters to top-ranking members of the Committee for their due consideration of important measures.
Officials of administrative agencies may ask the Committees to be heard in person or they may submit detailed statements with their reasons for a favorable action by the Committee on a certain Bill. Representatives of pressure groups also manage to make their influences felt whether public hearings are held or not. Sometimes they manage to get themselves invited to the private hearings of Committees.
On the basis of its own investigations, the information gathered at public hearings, the opinion elicited from high Government officers and the influence exercised by pressure groups, the Committee meets in executive (closed) session to arrive at its verdict. Before the final meeting is held the sentiments of various members are canvassed. It may take by majority vote one of the following courses:
- It may recommend the Bill back to the Chamber concerned with recommendation that it he passed;
- It may amend the Bill and recommend that it be passed as amended;
- It may entirely change the original Bill except its title and report a new one in its place;
- It may report the Bill unfavorably and recommend that it need not be passed;
- It may pigeon-hole the Rill, that is, to take no action on the Bill at all, or report it so late in the session that it may not find an opportunity for consideration.
The Report to the House is usually made by the Chairman of the Committee or someone designated by him. On important maters Committee Report may be extensive and exhaustive; on minor matters it may convey a little more than a simple affirmative note. Hearings of the major Committees on important legislation are published, some in the documents series of Congress. Minority reports may also be filed.
The Caucus System:-
Before describing the next stage in the legislative procedure, it is necessary to briefly refer to the caucus system. We have already referred to the absence of leadership in Congress and consequently the need for devising some other means to see the Bills through or to oppose them. The mechanism which has been developed to meet the situation is known as the caucus or conference.
There are numerous Bills which are noncontroversial and do not demand much political interest. Such Bills are left to find their own way in Congress and the individual members are permitted by their parties to take stands as they please, But the most important legislative proposals cannot be left to themselves and it is here that the caucus system intervenes. A caucus is a meeting of the members of a political party both belonging to the Senate and the House and all members are expected to attend unless they have a valid reason for absence.
The caucus at its first meeting of the session elects its party leader, steering committee, floor leader, whips and party assignments on Congressional Committees. The caucus of the majority party plans a positive programme for the particular session of Congress.
The minority caucus has less an active role to play, although it may decide to oppose certain controversial Bills which, are regarded especially dear to the majority party. In the caucus meetings members are free to express their opinions and persuade the caucus to accept their, view. But once the decision has been taken and particular stand determined, all members of the , caucus are expected to abide by its decision no matter what their personal views on the measure maybe.
The caucus system is used more in the House of Representatives rather in the Senate. The caucus of the Senate used to be as strong as that of the House of Representatives, but during the last two decades, the caucus in the Senate have limited themselves to setting up party machinery and arranging committee assignments, leaving Senators free to divide themselves as they like on pending Bills. It does not, however, mean that the party Whip is not issued to the members to pass a Bill which is deemed in the best interests of the party, but no official caucus is taken which would bind the party Senators in voting.
Procedure on the Floor:-
Each Bill reported out of a Committee to the floor of the House is,placed on one of the three principal calendars. A Legislative Calendar is a docket or list of measures reported from Committees and ready for consideration. The House of Representatives maintains three of these for different types of measures:
- A Calendar of the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union, to which are referred all public Bills raising revenues or involving a charge against the government. It is also called the Union Calendar.
- A House Calendar for all public bills not raising revenues of appropriating money or property.
- A Calendar of the Committee of the Whole House for all private bills; also called the Private Calendar.
Bills are listed on these Calendars in the order in which they are received from the committees and remain there until the final adjournment of Congress, unless they are removed for consideration, All Bills are not invariably called up from the calendars in the order in which they are listed.
Most important bills are lifted out of their sequence on the lists and put in a preferred position. If this is not done, there may not be any chance of their being taken up for consideration and hundreds of bills die on the calendars in every Congress.
Both Houses guard jealously the right of the minority to be heard. In the House of Representatives it usually takes the form of apportioning an equal amount of time on a given measure to its opponents and proponents. In the Senate it appears in the facilities extended for almost unlimited debate.
When the time fixed for bringing a Bill to the floor of the House of Representatives has arrived, the House ordinarily meets as a Committee of the Whole. The Senate before 1930 used Committee of the Whole more frequently than the House, but it has now abandoned this practice for the consideration of ordinary Bills, except in debating treaties.
The Committees of the Whole are of two kinds a Committee of the Whole House for consideration of private Bills, and a Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union of considering public Bills, When the House goes into the Committee of the Whole, the Speaker leaves the chair and calls someone else to preside in his place.
The presence of 100 members constitutes a quorum. Debate in the Committee of the Whole is conducted rather informally, and greater freedom of discussion is allowed. Divisions are taken only viva vice, by rising vote or by tellers and no record is kept how members vote. Motions to refer or to postpone are not permitted and when discussion is completed the Committee votes to rise, the Speaker resumes the chair and the mace is again placed on a marble pedestal on the right of the chair.
The device of the Committee of the Whole is really important, because it enables all Finance Bills and most other important Bills to be considered in such a way that ordinarily every member who desires to speak and offer amendments can do so. He is a fact, given an opportunity for that.
It also, affords large number of amendments to be presented, explained and disposed of speedily. It facilitates rapid fire, critical debate which commonly shows the House at its best. And, for better or worse, the absence of recorded ayes and nays enables members to register their sentiments without check or restraint such as published votes Sometimes impose.
Three readings of each Bill are required by House rules. The first requirement is satisfied by printing the title of a Bill in the Congressional Record and the Journal. Then, the measure goes to the Committee and if reported back, is placed upon its Calendar for a second reading.
The second reading occurs at the time the Bill is taken up for consideration in the House or in the Committee of the Whole. This is the actual reading in full with opportunity for debate and for amendments to be offered. Some amendments are general, considered amendments are seriously intended as alterations in the Bill.
Others are pro forma, involving the striking out of the last word or two of a section. In the conduct of the Bill the top-ranking members of the Committee who had: supported the Bill pilot it through in the House. The minority members of the Committee oppose it. Time for debate is generally predetermined and is equally divided between the supporters and opponents of the Bill.
At the conclusion of the consideration, the Speaker states. The question is on the engrossment and third reading of the Bill. If adopted, the Bill is ordered engrossed and read a third time. After this the question is on the final passage of the Bill. If it is passed, then, it is sent, duly signed by the Speaker, to the Senate an Action by the Senate
The engrossed Bill is sent to the Senate through a messenger where it is received with due dignity. The President of the Senate refers it to the appropriate Standing Committee in con with the rules. The Senate Committee same kind of detailed consideration in the House of Representatives, and any report it with or without amendment. Then, it is placed on the Calendar.
The Rules of Procedure in the Senate differ from those in the House of Representatives. The Senator making the report may ask consent of the Chamber for the immediate consideration of the Bill. If there is no objection and the Bill is of non-controversial nature, the Senate may pass the Bill even without a debate after a brief explanation of its purposes and effect. Any Senator may also move an amendment thereto. If there is any objection to its immediate consideration, the report, must lie over one day and the Bill is placed on the Calendar. Unlike the House of Representatives, there is only one Calendar of Bills in the Senate.
At the conclusion of the morning business for each legislative day the Senate proceeds to the consideration of the Calendar of Bills. Bills that are not objected to are taken up in their serial order permitting each Senator to speak for five minutes only on any question.
Objections my be raised at any stage. When the Bill has been objected and passed over on the call of the Calendar, it is not necessarily lost. The majority party of the Senate determines the time at which the debate takes place and a motion is made to consider the Bill.
The motion may lead to filibuster. Closure may be applied if 16 Senators sign a motion to that effect and the motion is carried by two-thirds of the members voting. Amendments may be moved even at this stage, and these, including those proposed by the Committee that reported the Bill, are considered separately.
After final action on the amendments, the Bill is ready for engrossment and the third reading . The Presiding officer then puts the question upon the passage and the vote is taken viva voice. A simple majority is necessary to pass the Bill. The original engrossed House Bill, together with the engrossed amendments, if any, is returned to the House with a message stating the action taken by the Senate.
On return to the House, it is placed, with all the relevant papers, on the table of the Speaker to await further action. If the amendments are minor these are accepted by the House, and the Bill is ready for environment for presentation to the President. If the amendments are substantial or controversial and the House does not agree thereto, a member may request for a conference. At the conference only matters in disagreement are considered. In many instances the result of the conference is a compromise. If no agreement is reached the matter is reported by the conferees to their respective Chambers.
A Bill cannot become a Law:-
A Bill cannot become a law until it has been approved in identical terms by both Houses of Congress. When the Bill has finally been approved by both Houses it is sent to the President for his assent. If he approves the Bill he signs it and usually writes approved and it becomes law. If the President decides to veto it, he returns it with a message stating the objections to the Chamber in which the Bill originated. If the measure is repassed by both the Houses, with two-thirds votes in each, it becomes law without the signatures of the President. If two-thirds vote is not forthcoming the veto stands.
If the President keeps a Bill for ten days without signing it while Congress is in session, it becomes law without his signatures. But if Congress adjourns within ten days and the President does nut sign the Bill, the Bill is killed. This has been called the pocket veto.
Committee System Analyzed:-
Law-making in the United States is a labyrinth, complicated and tortuous process wherein Committees play the key role. It is here that the Bills languish and die and the Chairmen of the Committees play a strategic role in the process of selecting the Bills that the Committees will take up, in shaping the size and jurisdictions of the sub-committees, and in selecting members who may sponsor legislation.
In countries with parliamentary system the part which the Committees play is secondary. Their purpose is to give the Bill a final shape and it comes to them when the Chamber itself has already approved its general character. The Minister sponsoring the Bill holds its charge throughout it is his child. It is just the other way in the United States. Woodrow Wilson appropriately characterized American Government as Government by the Standing Committees of Congress.
The Committees are of two types in the Unite States, Standing or Legislative Committees and Special Committees. The House of Representatives has twenty-two Standing Committees and the Senate sixteen. They are permanent Committees, each of which watches over a particular segment of legislative business.
The number of Committees though slightly different, the division of responsibility among Committees is very similar in both Houses. Each of the Senator is assigned two of the Committees, though three even four Committee assignments are sometimes made, whereas one Representative, with some exceptions, however, gets only one. Many Committees constitute their Sub-Committees, some of which are permanent and are subject to little control by the parent Committee.
A House Committee, a phrase commonly referred for a Standing Committee of the House of Representatives, consists of nine to fifty-one members, and a Senate Committee usually has eight to twenty-six members. All the Standing Committees in both the Chambers are bipartisan in character and the proportion is fixed by the Party in majority for the time being.
There is a tendency to appoint members to Committees in the work of which they are interested. It is a forum of specialized interests, for example, ex-soldiers seek places on the Committee dealing with veterans, members from the farm States go to the Committee on Agriculture and the industrial States of the North and East are represented on the Finance Committee.
Special or Select Committees may be created at times to perform specific tasks. Their members are appointed by the Speaker and are created by a simple resolution. The best known Select Committees are investigating committees. When the function has been carried out the Select Committee automatically expires. In recent years, however, such Committees are seldom appointed and investigations are assigned instead to the relevant Standing Committees.
Special Investigating Committees are sometimes set up to gather information on some subjects as an aid to law-making, to check on the administration of laws, or to investigate into alleged undesirable practices or conditions: The House of Representatives frequently votes itself into the Committee of the Whole for the purpose of expediting business and reaching agreements on detailed provisions of Bills. When the House meets as a Committee of the Whole, all its members sit as a committee with an appointed chairman.
Joint Committees consisting of an equal number of Representatives and Senators have been created by law in a few well-demarcated fields, such as, the Joint Committees on Atomic Energy, on the Economic Report, on the Library of Congress, on Internal Revenue Taxation. Conference Committees are a special form of Joint Committee used to iron out differences on Bills as passed by the two Houses. The Speaker appoints House conferees, and the Vice-President those of the Senate.
Normally the House appoints three or five conferees, but the Senate tends to appoint more. If the conferees agree on a compromise they report the result to their respective Chambers. Should the House and Senate. both agree to accept the recommendations of the Conference Committee, the Bill is deemed to have passed in the form the Conference Committee proposed it. If one or both Chambers refuse to accept the recommendations of the Conference Committee, the Bill dies or another Conference Committee meeting may be arranged to resolve the differences in the light of the deliberations and sentiments expressed by the House and the Senate.
The real work of legislation; which averages 5,000 to 7,000 Bills in a session, is done through the Standing Committees. These Committees call out those Bills which they regard important and recommend to Congress for enactment. In fact, most Bills are enacted in the form given them in the Committees. Some Bills are redrafted de novo in Committee rooms. The Standing Committees, therefore, play a vital role in the Congressional! legislative process. The reduced number of Standing Committees, 61 prior to 1927, 47 from 1927 to 1946 and since then has resulted in the greater use of subcommittee as the work-load of Committee work remain the same after 1946.
In theory Chairmen of the Committees in each House are designated by the Committee on Committees of the majority party. But in practice each assignment goes to that Member of the majority party who has the longest unbroken service on the Committee. This seniority rule in the appointment of Chairman ts a subject of deep controversy as it ignores ability and puts premium on continuous service on the Committee itself.
The American Political Science Association appointed, in 1945, a Committee on Congress and it recommended the abandonment of the seniority rule. The Committee suggested two alternatives to the prevailing system. First, the Chairmen of Standing Committees should be selected at the beginning of each Congress by a Committee on Committees of the majority party on the basis of merit, or, if seniority remains the dominant consideration, then an automatic limit of six years be placed on the term of all Chairmen, thereby forcing a reasonably regular rotation of office.
The role of the Chairman of a Committee in the legislative process is extremely important, He has the power to arrange the meetings of the committee; to select its professional staff, to appoint the members of the sub-committee; to determine the order in which it considers Bills; to decide if public hearings on a Bill are desirable, to arrange to have a Bill, favorably reported by the committee, brought to the floor of the House; and serve as a manager on the Conference Committee on a particular Bill, should one be necessary.
In theory the manner in which a Chairman exercises these powers is subject to review and even control by the committee as a whole, but it is a rare committee that even undertakes to check or rebuke its Chairman. It also goes to the credit of a Chairman that he does not seek to ride roughshod over a majority of his Committee members.
A significant merit of the Committee system in the United States is that the Committees are well equipped to consider measures referred to them. The members of the Committees are sufficiently experienced, many members having first-hand information on the subject covered by a bill. In addition to the clerical staff, each committee is authorized to appoint not more than four professional staff members on a permanent basis.
The Legislative Council and the Legislative Reference Service of the Library of Congress render assistance to the Committees for the successful and efficient performance of their duties. But the vital source of information is the testimony given by Government officials, representatives of organized groups, and private citizens at public hearings.
In addition to making recommendations on legislation, the Standing Committees scrutinize administration of laws by the Executive branch of Government. The Legislative Reorganization Act, 1946, directs each Committee of Congress to exercise continuous watchfulness of the execution by the administrative agencies concerned of any law, the subject-matter of which is within the jurisdiction of such Committee.