CONGRESS FINAL NOTES - Congressional Committees-statement...

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Congressional Committees -statement by Woodrow Wilson on Congressional committees- 1885- “Congressional gov’t” still a lot of truth in Wilson’s account of committee system -10,000 bills introduced per year- only 1,000 introduced to the floor, committees kill 90% of bills -House Ways and Means Com- deals with all legislation on revenues of US -given jurisdiction over trade legislation (tariffs) when that was a central policy issue in the US -90% of Bills reported by Ways and means go on to pass the House without substantial amendment -Ways and means given jurisdiction over Medicare bc it is funded with federal tax Money -committees differ on extent and power, that power changes over time -past dozen years committees have been less powerful than they were through much of the 20 th C -change related to the way in which members sought election and extent to which committee selection was important -since 1995 there has been a greater uncertainty about outcome of Congressional elections- Democrats no longer had clear control (as they had since about 1930) -1995 Neut Gingrich presented “Contract of America” to secure Republican victory in Congress -persuaded Republicans to pass as much of the Contract with American legislation as possible- had to centralize control over committees to get as much of this plan through as possible -control of committees continued from 1995-2006 when the Republicans had a majority in the House -party leadership controlled what committee reported; this centralization has somewhat continued under the Democrats; at this point the balance of power between committees and party leadership is unclear Gingrich’s domination: -told people that they had to do as he said to maintain their positions on committees -major element of program was to reduce money fore programs serving Democratic constituencies; reduced spending on education and healthcare -made member of W&M sign a “letter of fidelity” vowing to vote with him -sought to scale back agricultural subsidies -sought to retain power of House committees by appointing special task forces for sensitive issues (ex. Medicare legislation) instead of giving it to a normal committee -Republicans reduced extent to which committees dominate legislative process in the House -key determinant of output of committee is the way in which members are selected to serve on and chair committees -members 1 st request to be assigned to a specific committee 3 important considerations which influence requests: 1. seek to serve on a committee which would help their reelection (Ex.
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Representatives from rural districts want to serve on Agricultural com. 2. seek to exercise influence over policies they regard as particularly important 3. seek to become influential members of Congress, want to serve on most powerful committees (these are the hardest to get on) ex. Rules Committee- establishes the procedures of Bills in the House -W&M and Appropriations are very important/powerful -members make requests to Steering Committee of the Congressional Party they belong to (There are 4 parties!)
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