e-book Report to Congressional Committees

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Bills begin and end their lives in committees , whether they are passed into law or not. Hearings from interest groups and agency bureaucrats are held at the committee and subcommittee level, and committee members play key roles in floor debate about the bills that they foster. Committees help to organize the most important work of Congress — considering, shaping, and passing laws to govern the nation. Standing committees , which continue from one Congress to the next, are probably the most important type because they consider and shape the vast majority of proposed laws.

Subject Guide

Standing committees can be combined or discontinued but most of them have been around for many years. Standing committees also conduct investigations, such as the Senate Banking Committee's investigation of President Bill Clinton's Whitewater investments. Select committees are temporarily formed for specific purposes, often to study a particular issue.

They usually do not draft legislation. Some, like the select committees to investigate the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, are obviously intended to have limited lives. Others, like the Select Committee on Aging and the Select Committee on Indian Affairs, have existed for a number of years actually produce legislation. Sometimes long-standing select committees eventually become standing committees. Joint committees have similar purposes as select committees, but they are made up of members from both the House and the Senate.

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They are set up to conduct business between the houses and to help focus public attention on major issues. Some joint committees handle routine matters, such as supervising the Library of Congress. Conference committees are specially created when the House and the Senate need to reconcile different versions of the same bill. A conference committee is made up of members from the House and Senate committees that originally considered the bill.

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  8. Once the committee agrees on a compromise, the revised bill is returned to both houses of Congress for their approval. After each congressional election , political parties assign newly elected Representatives and Senators to standing committees.

    Improving Congressional Oversight

    They consider a member's own wishes in making the assignments, but they also assess the needs of the committees, in terms of region of the country, personalities, and party connections. Since the House has members, most Representatives only serve on one or two committees. On the other hand, Senators often serve on several committees and subcommittees.

    Committee assignment is one of the most important decisions for a new member's future work in Congress.

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    Usually, members seek appointment on committees that will allow them to serve their districts or state the most directly. However, a members from a "safe" district — where his or her reelection is not in jeopardy — and who wants to be a leader in Congress, may want to be named to a powerful committee, such as Foreign Relations, Judiciary, or the House Ways and Means.

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    There they are more likely to come into contact with current leaders and perhaps even gain some media attention. Report broken link.

    Congressional Oversight and the U.S. Government

    American Government 1. What Is a Democracy? The ICE Office of Congressional Relations OCR handles outreach to Congress, with a strong focus on promoting greater understanding of ICE operations, policies, programs and initiatives among members of Congress, Congressional committees and their staffs by providing responsive, accurate, and relevant replies to inquiries and requests. All Congressional liaison efforts spearheaded by OCR are conducted in close partnership with the ICE director's office, executive staff, division directors, field office leadership and the Department of Homeland Security.

    It helps ICE leadership respond and provide information to congressional decision makers about the agency's mission and operations.

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