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United States House Committee on Appropriations

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The United States House Committee on Appropriations is a committee of the United States House of Representatives.

The committee is responsible for passing appropriation bills along with its Senate counterpart.[1] The bills passed by the Appropriations Committee regulate expenditures of money by the government of the United States. As such, it is one of the most powerful of the committees, and its members are seen as influential. They make the key decisions about the work of their committees—when their committees meet, which bills they will consider, and for how long.

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


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 Crash Course is made with all of these lovely people. Thanks for watching. Staffer! Coffee! Please. Thank you.



The constitutional basis for the Appropriations Committee comes from Article one, Section nine, Clause seven of the U.S. Constitution, which says

No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.

This clearly delegated the power of appropriating money to Congress, but was vague beyond that. Originally, the power of appropriating was taken by the Committee on Ways and Means, but the United States Civil War placed a large burden on the Congress, and at the end of that conflict, a reorganization occurred.

Early years

The Committee on Appropriations was created on December 11, 1865, when the U.S. House of Representatives separated the tasks of the Committee on Ways and Means into three parts.[2] The passage of legislation affecting taxes remained with Ways and Means. The power to regulate banking was transferred to the Committee on Banking and Commerce. The power to appropriate money—to control the federal pursestrings—was given to the newly created Appropriations Committee.

At the time of creation the membership of the committee stood at nine; it currently has 53 members.[2] The power of the committee has only grown since its founding; many of its members and chairmen have gone on to even higher posts. Four of them—Samuel Randall (D-PA), Joseph Cannon (R-IL), Joseph Byrns (D-TN) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)—have gone on to become the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives; one, James Garfield, has gone on to become President of the United States.

The root of the Appropriations Committee's power is its ability to disburse funds, and thus as the United States federal budget has risen, so has the power of the Appropriations Committee. The first federal budget of the United States, in 1789, was for $639,000—a hefty sum for the time, but a much smaller amount relative to the economy than the federal budget would later become. By the time the Appropriations committee was founded, the Civil War and inflation had raised expenditures to roughly $1.3 billion, increasing the clout of Appropriations. Expenditures continued to follow this pattern—rising sharply during wars before settling down—for over 100 years.

Another important development for Appropriations occurred in the presidency of Warren G. Harding. Harding was the first President of the United States to deliver a budget proposal to Congress.

Recent times

Logo of the United States House Committee on Appropriations
Logo of the United States House Committee on Appropriations

In May 1945, when U.S. Representative Albert J. Engel queried extra funds for the Manhattan Project, the administration approved a visit to CEW (and HEW if desired) by selected legislators, including Engel, Mahon, Snyder, John Taber and Clarence Cannon (the committee chairman). About a month earlier Taber and Cannon had nearly come to blows over expenditure. But after visiting the Clinton Engineer Works at Oak Ridge Taber asked General Groves and Colonel Nichols "Are you sure you’re asking for enough money? Cannon commented "Well, I never expected to hear that from you, John." [3]

In the early 1970s, the Appropriations Committee faced a crisis. President Richard Nixon began "impounding" funds, not allowing them to be spent, even when Congress had specifically appropriated money for a cause. This was essentially a line-item veto. Numerous court cases were filed by outraged interest groups and members of Congress. Eventually, the sense that Congress needed to regain control of the budget process led to the adoption of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which finalized the budget process in its current form.


The Appropriations committee is widely recognized by political scientists as one of the "power committees,"[citation needed] since it holds the power of the purse. Openings on the Appropriations committee are often hotly demanded, and are doled out as rewards. It is one of the exclusive committees of the House, meaning its members typically sit on no other committee. Under House Rules, an exception to this is that five Members of the Appropriations Committee must serve on the House Budget Committee—three for the Majority and two for the Minority. Much of the power of the committee comes from the inherent utility of controlling spending. Its subcommittee chairmen are often called "Cardinals" because of the power they wield over the budget.

Since Congress is elected from single-member districts, how well the member secures rewards for his or her district is one of the best indicators as to whether or not he or she will be reelected. One way to achieve popularity in one's district is to bring it federal spending, thus creating jobs and raising economic performance. This type of spending is often derided by critics as pork barrel spending, while those who engage in it generally defend it as necessary and appropriate expenditure of government funds. The members of the Appropriations committee can do this better than most, and as such the appointment is regarded as a plus. This help can also be directed towards other members, increasing the stature of committee members in the House and helping them gain support for leadership positions or other honors.

The committee tends to be less partisan than other committees or the House overall. While the minority party will offer amendments during committee consideration, appropriations bills often get significant bipartisan support, both in committee and on the House floor. This atmosphere can be attributed to the fact that all committee members have a compelling interest in ensuring legislation will contain money for their own districts. Conversely, because members of this committee can easily steer money to their home districts, it is considered very difficult to unseat a member of this committee at an election—especially if he or she is a "Cardinal".

In addition, the ability to appropriate money is useful to lobbyists and interest groups; as such, being on Appropriations makes it easier to collect campaign contributions (see campaign finance).

Members, 116th Congress

Majority Minority

Sources: H.Res. 7 (Chair), H.Res. 8 (Ranking Member), H.Res. 42 (D), H.Res. 68 (R)

Historical membership rosters

115th Congress

Membership, 115th Congress
Majority [4] Minority [5]

114th Congress

Members, 114th Congress
Majority Minority


Reorganization in 2007

In 2007, the number of subcommittees was increased to 12 at the start of the 110th Congress. This reorganization, developed by Chairman David Obey and his Senate counterpart, Robert Byrd, for the first time provided for common subcommittee structures between both houses, a move that both chairmen hoped will allow Congress to "complete action on each of the government funding on time for the first time since 1994".[8]

The new structure added the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, and transferred jurisdiction over Legislative Branch appropriations from the full committee to a newly reinstated Legislative Branch Subcommittee, which had not existed since the 108th Congress.

List of subcommittees

Subcommittee Chair Ranking Member[9]
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Sanford Bishop (D-GA)[10] Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Jose Serrano (D-NY)[11] Robert Aderholt (R–AL)
Defense Pete Visclosky (D-IN)[12] Ken Calvert (R-CA)
Energy and Water Development Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)[13] Mike Simpson (R-ID)
Financial Services and General Government Mike Quigley (D-IL)[14] Tom Graves (R-GA)
Homeland Security Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)[15] Chuck Fleischmann (R–TN)
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Betty McCollum (D-MN) Dave Joyce (R-OH)
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) Tom Cole (R-OK)
Legislative Branch Tim Ryan (D-OH) Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA)
Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) John Carter (R-TX)
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Nita Lowey (D-NY) Hal Rogers (R–KY)
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies David Price (D-NC) Mario Diaz-Balart (R–FL)

List of Chairs

Chairman Party State Years
Thaddeus Stevens Republican Pennsylvania 1865–1868
Elihu B. Washburne Republican Illinois 1868–1869
Henry L. Dawes Republican Massachusetts 1869–1871
James A. Garfield Republican Ohio 1871–1875
Samuel J. Randall Democratic Pennsylvania 1875–1876
William S. Holman Democratic Indiana 1876–1877
Hiester Clymer Democratic Pennsylvania 1877
John D. C. Atkins Democratic Tennessee 1877–1881
Frank Hiscock Republican New York 1881–1883
Samuel J. Randall Democratic Pennsylvania 1883–1889
Joseph G. Cannon Republican Illinois 1889–1891
William S. Holman Democratic Indiana 1891–1893
Joseph D. Sayers Democratic Texas 1893–1895
Joseph G. Cannon Republican Illinois 1895–1903
James A. Hemenway Republican Indiana 1903–1905
James Albertus Tawney Republican Minnesota 1905–1911
John J. Fitzgerald Democratic New York 1911–1917
J. Swagar Sherley Democratic Kentucky 1917–1919
James W. Good Republican Iowa 1919–1921
Charles Russell Davis Republican Minnesota 1921–1923
Martin B. Madden Republican Illinois 1923–1928
Daniel R. Anthony, Jr. Republican Kansas 1928–1929
William R. Wood Republican Indiana 1929–1931
Joseph W. Byrns Democratic Tennessee 1931–1933
James P. Buchanan Democratic Texas 1933–1937
Edward T. Taylor Democratic Colorado 1937–1941
Clarence Cannon Democratic Missouri 1941–1947
John Taber Republican New York 1947–1949
Clarence Cannon Democratic Missouri 1949–1953
John Taber Republican New York 1953–1955
Clarence Cannon Democratic Missouri 1955–1964
George H. Mahon Democratic Texas 1964–1979
Jamie L. Whitten Democratic Mississippi 1979–1993
William H. Natcher Democratic Kentucky 1993–1994
David R. Obey Democratic Wisconsin 1994–1995
Bob Livingston Republican Louisiana 1995–1999
C.W. Bill Young Republican Florida 1999–2005
Jerry Lewis Republican California 2005–2007
David R. Obey Democratic Wisconsin 2007–2011
Hal Rogers Republican Kentucky 2011–2017
Rodney Frelinghuysen Republican New Jersey 2017–2019
Nita Lowey Democratic New York 2019-present

See also


  1. ^ Tollestrup, Jessica. "The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction". Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  2. ^ a b "About the Committee". Retrieved February 25, 2012.
  3. ^ Nichols, Kenneth D. (1987). The Road to Trinity: A Personal Account of How America's Nuclear Policies Were Made. New York: William Morrow and Company. p. 174. ISBN 0-688-06910-X. OCLC 15223648.
  4. ^ H.Res. 6 (Chair), H.Res. 29
  5. ^ H.Res. 7 (Ranking Member), H.Res. 45
  6. ^ H.Res. 6
  7. ^ "Matt Cartwright named to House spending panel=The Morning Call".
  8. ^ "Senate, House Appropriations Set Subcommittee Plans for New Congress". Committee on Appropriations. January 4, 2007. Archived from the original on January 31, 2007. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  9. ^ O'Brien, Connor (2019-01-15). "Granger names ranking members for the 12 House Appropriations subcommittees. As expected, Ken Calvert takes her spot as the top Republican on Defense". @connorobrienNH. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  10. ^ "Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (116th Congress)". Committee on Appropriations - Democrats. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  11. ^ "Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (116th Congress)". Committee on Appropriations - Democrats. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  12. ^ "Defense (116th Congress)". Committee on Appropriations - Democrats. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  13. ^ "Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies (116th Congress)". Committee on Appropriations - Democrats. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  14. ^ "Financial Services and General Government (116th Congress)". Committee on Appropriations - Democrats. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  15. ^ "Homeland Security (116th Congress)". Committee on Appropriations - Democrats. Retrieved 2019-01-15.

External links

This page was last edited on 21 March 2019, at 01:40
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