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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Committee room, designed 1901, in Halifax Town Hall
Committee room, designed 1901, in Halifax Town Hall

A committee (or "commission") is a body of one or more persons that is subordinate to a deliberative assembly. Usually, the assembly sends matters into a committee as a way to explore them more fully than would be possible if the assembly itself were considering them. Committees may have different functions and their type of work differ depending on the type of the organization and its needs.

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  • ✪ Congressional Committees: Crash Course Government and Politics #7

Transcription

Hi, I'm Craig and this is Crash Course Government and Politics and today we're going to get down and dirty wallowing in the mud that is Congress. Okay, maybe that's a little unfair, but the workings of Congress are kind of arcane or byzantine or maybe let's just say extremely complex and confusing, like me, or Game of Thrones without the nudity. Some of the nudity, maybe. However, Congress is the most important branch, so it would probably behoove most Americans to know how it works. I'm going to try to explain. Be prepared to be behooved. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are divided up into committees in order to make them more efficient. The committees you hear about most are the standing committees, which are relatively permanent and handle the day-to-day business of Congress. The House has 19 standing committees and the Senate 16. Congressmen and Senators serve on multiple committees. Each committee has a chairperson, or chair, who is the one who usually gets mentioned in the press, which is why you would know the name of the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. Tell us in the comments if you do know, or tell us if you are on the committee, or just say hi. Congress creates special or select committees to deal with particular issues that are beyond the jurisdiction of standing committees. Some of them are temporary and some, like the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, are permanent. Some of them have only an advisory function which means they can't write laws. The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming has only advisory authority which tells you pretty much all you need to know about Congress and climate change. There are joint committees made up of members of both houses. Most of them are standing committees and they don't do a lot although the joint Committee on the Library oversees the Library of Congress, without which we would not be able to use a lot of these pictures. Like that one, and that one, and ooh that one's my favorite. Other committees are conference committees, which are created to reconcile a bill when the House and Senate write different versions of it, but I'll talk about those later when we try to figure out how a bill becomes a law. So why does Congress have so many committees? The main reason is that it's more efficient to write legislation in a smaller group rather than a larger one. Congressional committees also allow Congressmen to develop expertise on certain topics. So a Congressperson from Iowa can get on an agriculture committee because that is an issue he presumably knows something about if he pays attention to his constituents. Or a Congressperson from Oklahoma could be on the Regulation of Wind Rolling Down the Plain Committee. Committees allow members of Congress to follows their own interests, so someone passionate about national defense can try to get on the armed services committee. Probably more important, serving on a committee is something that a Congressperson can claim credit for and use to build up his or her brand when it comes time for reelection. Congress also has committees for historical reasons. Congress is pretty tradish, which is what you say when you don't have time to say traditional. Anyway, it doesn't see much need to change a system that has worked, for the most part, since 1825. That doesn't mean that Congress hasn't tried to tweak the system. Let's talk about how committees actually work in the Thought Bubble. Any member of Congress can propose a bill, this is called proposal power, but it has to go to a committee first. Then to get to the rest of the House or Senate it has to be reported out of committee. The chair determines the agenda by choosing which issues get considered. In the House the Speaker refers bills to particular committees, but the committee chair has some discretion over whether or not to act on the bills. This power to control what ideas do or do not become bills is what political scientists call "Gatekeeping Authority", and it's a remarkably important power that we rarely ever think about, largely because when a bill doesn't make it on to the agenda, there's not much to write or talk about. The committee chairs also manage the actual process of writing a bill, which is called mark-up, and the vote on the bill in the committee itself. If a bill doesn't receive a majority of votes in the committee, it won't be reported out to the full House or Senate. In this case we say the bill "died in committee" and we have a small funeral on the National Mall. Nah we just put it in the shredder. Anyway, committee voting is kind of an efficient practice. If a bill can't command a majority in a small committee it doesn't have much chance in the floor of either house. Committees can kill bills by just not voting on them, but it is possible in the House to force them to vote by filing a discharge petition - this almost never happens. Gatekeeping Authority is Congress's most important power, but it also has oversight power, which is an after-the-fact authority to check up on how law is being implemented. Committees exercise oversight by assigning staff to scrutinize a particular law or policy and by holding hearings. Holding hearings is an excellent way to take a position on a particular issue. Thanks Thought Bubble. So those are the basics of how committees work, but I promised you we'd go beyond the basics, so here we go into the Realm of Congressional History. Since Congress started using committees they have made a number of changes, but the ones that have bent the Congress into its current shape occurred under the speakership of Newt Gingrich in 1994. Overall Gingrich increased the power of the Speaker, who was already pretty powerful. The number of subcommittees was reduced, and seniority rules in appointing chairs were changed. Before Gingrich or "BG" the chair of a committee was usually the longest serving member of the majority party, which for most of the 20th century was the Democrats. AG Congress, or Anno Gingrichy Congress, holds votes to choose the chairs. The Speaker has a lot of influence over who gets chosen on these votes, which happen more regularly because the Republicans also impose term limits on the committee chairs. Being able to offer chairmanships to loyal party members gives the Speaker a lot more influence over the committees themselves. The Speaker also increased his, or her - this is the first time we can say that, thanks Nancy Pelosi - power to refer bills to committee and act as gatekeeper. Gingrich also made changes to congressional staffing. But before we discuss the changes, let's spend a minute or two looking at Congressional staff in general. There are two types of congressional staff, the Staff Assistants that each Congressperson or Senator has to help her or him with the actual job of being a legislator, and the Staff Agencies that work for Congress as a whole. The staff of a Congressperson is incredibly important. Some staffers' job is to research and write legislation while others do case work, like responding to constituents' requests. Some staffers perform personal functions, like keeping track of a Congressperson's calendar, or most importantly making coffee - can we get a staffer in here? As Congresspeople spend more and more time raising money, more and more of the actual legislative work is done by staff. In addition to the individual staffers, Congress as a whole has specialized staff agencies that are supposed to be more independent. You may have heard of these agencies, or at least some of them. The Congressional Research Service is supposed to perform unbiased factual research for Congresspeople and their staff to help them in the process of writing the actual bills. The Government Accountability Office is a branch of Congress that can investigate the finances and administration of any government administrative office. The Congressional Budget Office assesses the likely costs and impact of legislation. When the CBO looks at the cost of a particular bill it's called "scoring the bill." The Congressional reforms after 1994 generally increased the number of individual staff and reduced the staff of the staff agencies. This means that more legislation comes out of the offices of individual Congresspeople. The last feature of Congress that I'm going to mention, briefly because their actual function and importance is nebulous, is the caucus system. These are caucuses in Congress, so don't confuse them with the caucuses that some states use to choose candidates for office, like the ones in Iowa. Caucuses are semi-formal groups of Congresspeople organized around particular identities or interests. Semi-formal in this case doesn't mean that they wear suits and ties, it means that they don't have official function in the legislative process. But you know what? Class it up a little - just try to look nice. The Congressional Black Caucus is made up of the African American members of the legislature. The Republican Study Group is the conservative caucus that meets to discuss conservative issues and develop legislative strategies. Since 2010 there is also a Tea Party caucus in Congress. There are also caucuses for very specific interests like the Bike Caucus that focuses on cycling. There should also be a Beard Caucus, shouldn't there? Is there a Beard Caucus Stan? No? What about an eagle punching caucus? The purpose of these caucuses is for like minded people to gather and discuss ideas. The caucuses can help members of Congress coordinate their efforts and also provide leadership opportunities for individual Congresspeople outside of the more formal structures of committees. There are a lot of terms and details to remember, but here's the big thing to take away: caucuses, congressional staff, and especially committees, all exist to make the process of lawmaking more efficient. In particular, committees and staff allow individual legislators to develop expertise; this is the theory anyway. Yes it's a theory. Committees also serve a political function of helping Congresspeople build an identity for voters that should help them get elected. In some ways this is just as important in the role in the process of making actual legislation. When Congress doesn't pass many laws, committee membership, or better yet, being a committee chair is one of the only ways that a Congressperson can distinguish him or herself. At least it gives you something more to learn about incumbents when you're making your voting choices. Thanks for watching. I'll see you next week. Crash Course is produced in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support for Crash Course US Government comes from Voqal. Voqal supports nonprofits that use technology and media to advance social equity. Learn more about their mission and initiatives at voqal.org Crash Course is made with all of these lovely people. Thanks for watching. Staffer! Coffee! Please. Thank you.

Contents

Purpose

A deliberative assembly may form a committee (or "commission") consisting of one or more persons to assist with the work of the assembly.[1] For larger organizations, much work is done in committees.[2] Committees can be a way to formally draw together people of relevant expertise from different parts of an organization who otherwise would not have a good way to share information and coordinate actions. They may have the advantage of widening viewpoints and sharing out responsibilities. They can also be appointed with experts to recommend actions in matters that require specialized knowledge or technical judgment.

Functions

Committees can serve several different functions:

Governance
In organizations considered too large for all the members to participate in decisions affecting the organization as a whole, a smaller body, such as a board of directors, is given the power to make decisions, spend money, or take actions. A governance committee is formed as a separate committee to review the performance of the board and board policy as well as nominate candidates for the board.[3]
Coordination and administration
A large body may have smaller committees with more specialized functions. Examples are an audit committee, an elections committee, a finance committee, a fundraising committee, and a program committee. Large conventions or academic conferences are usually organized by a coordinating committee drawn from the membership of the organization.
Research and recommendations
Committees may be formed to do research and make recommendations on a potential or planned project or change. For example, an organization considering a major capital investment might create a temporary working committee of several people to review options and make recommendations to upper management or the board of directors.
Discipline
A committee on discipline may be used to handle disciplinary procedures on members of the organization.[4]
As a tactic for indecision
As a means of public relations by sending sensitive, inconvenient, or irrelevant matters to committees, organizations may bypass, stall, or disacknowledge matters without declaring a formal policy of inaction or indifference. However, this could be considered a dilatory tactic.[5]

Power and authority

Generally, committees are required to report to their parent body. Committees do not usually have the power to act independently unless the body that created it gives it such power.[2]

Procedures

When a committee is formed, a chairman (or "chair" or "chairperson") is designated for the committee.[6] Sometimes a vice-chairman (or similar name) is also appointed.[7] It is common for the committee chairman to organize its meetings. Sometimes these meetings are held through videoconferencing or other means if committee members are not able to attend in person, as may be the case if they are in different parts of the country or the world.

The chairman is responsible for running meetings. Duties include keeping the discussion on the appropriate subject, recognizing members to speak, and confirming what the committee has decided (through voting or by unanimous consent). Using Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR), committees may follow informal procedures (such as not requiring motions if it's clear what is being discussed).[8] The level of formality depends on the size and type of committee, in which sometimes larger committees considering crucial issues may require more formal processes.

Minutes are a record of the decisions at meetings. They can be taken by a person designated as the secretary. For most organizations, committees are not required to keep formal minutes.[8] However, some bodies require that committees take minutes, especially if the committees are public ones subject to open meeting laws.

Committees may meet on a regular basis, such as weekly or more often, or meetings may be called irregularly as the need arises. The frequency of the meetings depends on the work of the committee and the needs of the parent body.

When the committee completes its work, it provides the results in a report to its parent body. The report may include the methods used, the facts uncovered, the conclusions reached, and any recommendations.[9] If the committee is not ready to report, it may provide a partial report or the assembly may discharge the committee of the matter so that the assembly can handle it. Also, if members of the committee are not performing their duties, they may be removed or replaced by the appointing power.[10] Whether the committee continues to exist after presenting its report depends on the type of committee. Generally, committees established by the bylaws or the organization's rules continue to exist, while committees formed for a particular purpose go out of existence after the final report.

Commit (motion)

Commit (RONR)
ClassSubsidiary motion
Requires second?Yes
Debatable?Yes, although debate on the motion must be confined to its merits only, and cannot go into the main question except as necessary for debate of the immediately pending question.
May be reconsidered?Yes, if a committee has not begun consideration of the question. A negative vote on this motion can be reconsidered only until such time as progress in business or debate has made it essentially a new question.
Amendable?Yes
Vote requiredMajority

In parliamentary procedure, the motion to commit (or refer) is used to refer another motion—usually a main motion—to a committee.

A motion to commit should specify to which committee the matter is to be referred, and if the committee is a special committee appointed specifically for purposes of the referred motion, it should also specify the number of committee members and the method of their selection, unless that is specified in the bylaws.[11]

Any proposed amendments to the main motion that are pending at the time the motion is referred to a committee go to the committee as well.[10]

Once referred, but before the committee reports its recommendations back to the assembly, the referred motion may be removed from the committee's consideration by the motion to discharge a committee.

Recommit

In the United States House of Representatives, a motion to recommit can be made with or without instructions. If the motion is made without instructions, the bill or resolution is simply sent back to the committee. If the motion is made with instructions and the motion is agreed to, the chairman of the committee in question will immediately report the bill or resolution back to the whole House with the new language. In this sense, a motion to recommit with instructions is effectively an amendment.[12]

Variations for full assembly consideration

In Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR), the motion to commit has three variations which do not turn a question over to a smaller group, but simply permit the assembly's full meeting body to consider it with the greater freedom of debate that is allowed to committees. These forms are to go into a committee of the whole, to go into a quasi-committee of the whole, and to consider informally. Passing any of these motions removes the limitations on the number of times a member can speak.[13] The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure has informal consideration, but does not have "committee of the whole" and "quasi committee of the whole".[14]

Discharge a committee

In Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, the motion to discharge a committee is used to take a matter out of a committee's hands before the committee has made a final report on it. A committee can use this motion to discharge a subcommittee.[15]

The vote required is a majority vote if the committee has failed to report at the prescribed time or if the assembly is considering a partial report of the committee.[16] Otherwise, it requires a majority vote with previous notice; or a two-thirds vote; or a majority of the entire membership.[16]

Under The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, the assembly that has referred a motion or a matter to a committee may, by a majority vote, withdraw it at any time from the committee, refer it to another committee, or decide the question itself.[17]

Types

Executive committee

Organizations with a large board of directors (such as international labor unions, large corporations with thousands of stock holders or national and international organizations) may have a smaller body of the board, called an executive committee, handle its business. The executive committee may function more like a board than an actual committee.[18][19] In any case, an executive committee can only be established through a specific provision in the charter or bylaws of the entity (i.e. a board cannot appoint an executive committee without authorization to do so).[18] Members of the executive committee may be elected by the overall franchised membership or by the board, depending on the rules of the organization. However formed, an executive committee only has such powers and authority that the governing documents of the organization give it. In some cases, it may be empowered to act on behalf of the board or organization, while in others, it may only be able to make recommendations.[18]

Conference committee

Governments at the national level may have a conference committee. A conference committee in a bicameral legislature is responsible for creating a compromise version of a particular bill when each house has passed a different version.

A conference committee in the United States Congress is a temporary panel of negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate. Unless one chamber decides to accept the other's original bill, the compromise version must pass both chambers after leaving the conference committee. The committee is usually composed of the senior members of the standing committees that originally considered the legislation in each chamber.

Other countries that use conference committees include France, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland.[20] In Canada, conference committees have been unused since 1947.[21]

Different use of term

In organizations, the term "conference committee" may have a different meaning. This meaning may be associated with the conferences, or conventions, that the organization puts together. The committees that are responsible for organizing such events may be called "conference committees".

Standing committee

A standing committee is a subunit of a political or deliberative body established in a permanent fashion to aid the parent assembly in accomplishing its duties. A standing committee is granted its scope and powers over a particular area of business by the governing documents.[22] Standing committees meet on a regular or irregular basis depending on their function, and retain any power or oversight originally given them until subsequent official actions of the governing body (through changes to law or by-laws) disbands the committee.

Legislatures

Most governmental legislative committees are standing committees. The phrase is used in the legislatures of the following countries:

Under the laws of the United States of America, a standing committee is a Congressional committee permanently authorized by United States House of Representatives and United States Senate rules. The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 greatly reduced the number of committees, and set up the legislative committee structure still in use today, as modified by authorized changes via the orderly mechanism of rules changes.

Examples in organizations

Examples of standing committees in organizations are an audit committee, an elections committee, a finance committee, a fundraising committee, a governance committee, and a program committee. Typically, the standing committees perform their work throughout the year and present their reports at an annual meeting of the organization.[23] These committees continue to exist after presenting their reports, although the membership in the committees may change.

Nominating committee

A nominating committee (or nominations committee) is a group formed for the purpose of nominating candidates for office or the board in an organization.[24] It may consist of members from inside the organization. Sometimes a governance committee takes the role of a nominating committee. Depending on the organization, this committee may be empowered to actively seek out candidates or may only have the power to receive nominations from members and verify that the candidates are eligible.

A nominating committee works similarly to an electoral college, the main difference being that the available candidates, either nominated or "written in" outside of the committee's choices, are then voted into office by the membership. It is a part of governance methods often employed by corporate bodies, business entities, and social and sporting groups, especially clubs. The intention is that they be made up of qualified and knowledgeable people representing the best interests of the membership. In the case of business entities, their directors will often be brought in from outside, and receive a benefit for their expertise.

In the context of nominations for awards, a nominating committee can also be formed for the purpose of nominating persons or things held up for judgment by others as to their comparative quality or value, especially for the purpose of bestowing awards in the arts, or in application to industry's products and services. The objective being to update, set, and maintain high and possibly new standards.

Steering committee

A steering committee is a committee that provides guidance, direction and control to a project within an organization.[25] The term is derived from the steering mechanism that changes the steering angle of a vehicle's wheels.

Project steering committees are frequently used for guiding and monitoring IT projects in large organizations, as part of project governance. The functions of the committee might include building a business case for the project, planning, providing assistance and guidance, monitoring the progress, controlling the project scope and resolving conflicts.

As with other committees, the specific duties and role of the steering committee vary among organizations.

Special committee

A special committee (or working, select, or ad hoc committee) is established to accomplish a particular task or to oversee a specific area in need of control or oversight.[26] Many are research or coordination committees in type or purpose, and are temporary. Some are a sub-group of a larger society with a particular area of interest which are organized to meet and discuss matters pertaining to their interests. For example, a group of astronomers might be organized to discuss how to get the larger society to address near earth objects. A subgroup of engineers and scientists of a large project's development team could be organized to solve some particular issue with offsetting considerations and trade-offs. Once the committee makes its final report to its parent body, the special committee ceases to exist.[26]

Subcommittee

A committee that is a subset of a larger committee is called a subcommittee. Committees that have a large workload may form subcommittees to further divide the work. Subcommittees report to the parent committee and not to the general assembly.[8][27]

Committee of the whole

When the entire assembly meets as a committee to discuss or debate, this is called a "committee of the whole". This is not an actual committee but a procedural device that is more commonly used in legislative bodies.

Central Committee

Central Committee was the common designation of a standing administrative body of communist parties, analogous to a board of directors, whether ruling or non-ruling in the 20th century and of surviving communist states in the 21st century. In such party organizations the committee would typically be made up of delegates elected at a party congress. In those states where it constituted the state power, the Central Committee made decisions for the party between congresses, and usually was (at least nominally) responsible for electing the Politburo. In non-ruling Communist parties, the Central Committee is usually understood by the party membership to be the ultimate decision-making authority between Congresses once the process of democratic centralism has led to an agreed-upon position

See also

References

  1. ^ Robert, Henry M.; et al. (2011). Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press. p. 489. ISBN 978-0-306-82020-5.
  2. ^ a b Robert 2011, p. 490
  3. ^ Walker, Dick; Bauser, John (April 2012). "So You Need (to Improve) a Governance Committee?". guidestar.org. GuideStar. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  4. ^ Robert 2011, p. 669
  5. ^ Robert 2011, p. 172
  6. ^ Robert 2011, p. 175
  7. ^ Robert 2011, p. 176
  8. ^ a b c Robert III, Henry M.; et al. (2011). Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief (2nd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press. p. 162. ISBN 978-0-306-82019-9. Archived from the original on 2017-08-11.
  9. ^ Robert III 2011, p. 164
  10. ^ a b Robert 2011, p. 177
  11. ^ Robert 2011, p. 171
  12. ^ Lynch, Megan S. (January 6, 2016). The Motion to Recommit in the House of Representatives (PDF). Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  13. ^ Robert 2011, p. 168
  14. ^ Sturgis, Alice (2001). The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, 4th ed., p. 232, 233, 236
  15. ^ Robert 2011, pp. 310–311
  16. ^ a b Robert 2011, p. 312
  17. ^ Sturgis, Alice (2001). The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, 4th ed., p. 57
  18. ^ a b c Robert 2011, p. 485
  19. ^ Robert III 2011, p. 157
  20. ^ Tsebelis, George; Money, Jeannette (1997). Bicameralism. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 178–179. ISBN 9780521589727.
  21. ^ Hays, Hon. Dan (Autumn 2008). "Reviving Conference Committees". revparl.ca. Canadian Parliamentary Review. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  22. ^ Robert 2011, p. 491
  23. ^ Robert 2011, p. 502
  24. ^ Robert 2011, p. 433
  25. ^ Mcleod (2008). Management Information Systems (10 ed.). Pearson Education. p. 201. ISBN 978-81-317-1949-7.
  26. ^ a b Robert 2011, p. 492
  27. ^ Robert 2011, p. 497
This page was last edited on 10 January 2019, at 21:23
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