The Congressional Research Service and the American Legislative Process

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House committee staff levels have declined over time, in part thanks to a promise to eliminate one-third of committee staff that was included in the Contract for America platform on which Republicans had contested the elections. Committee staff levels have periodically grown since these large reductions in the mids, but they remain lower than their pre levels.

In a world of constrained resources in which members would likely be resistant to mandates about where to locate their staff, committees may be a more fruitful target for building legislative expertise. Likely Consequences: Providing committees with additional funds to hire staff or to pay existing staff more could build additional policy expertise in committees, as could raising the maximum amount committee staff are able to be paid.

We might expect that pay adjustments, in particular, would increase staff retention. Likely Consequences: If the employment prospects of expert committee staff are not tied to a specific person or party, retention—and by extension, expertise and capacity—may increase. At the same time, designating staff as non-partisan raises important questions about to whom staff are accountable and what kind of relationships non-partisan staff may have with members. If the members and leaders of committees do not have the authority to hire and fire staff, legislators may be less likely trust them.

Congressional Committees

Option 3: Have committee and subcommittee clerks be hired jointly by majority and minority. Likely Consequences: The Senate follows this approach, which has the potential to strengthen committees by saving money and to encouraging bipartisanship. Committees routinely fail to reauthorize the federal programs under their jurisdictions, which also means they are potentially forgoing some oversight opportunities and, as a result, ceding power to the executive branch.

In addition, committees who do attempt to work on legislation sometimes find it difficult to reach agreement on proposals that are capable of passing both chambers without leadership support. Option 1: Increase opportunities for member credit claiming in bills, such as additional amending opportunities in markup or the inclusion of member requests in a committee report.

Using amendments in markup, however, would require members to commit to spending more of their scarce time in markups rather than on other work.

Likely Consequences: Ensuring that each subcommittee is guaranteed a staff person could increase the legislative capacity of subcommittees and, in turn, provide members with an additional venue to pursue policy goals. In a regime of fixed resources, however, increased subcommittee staffing could result in staffing or other funding cuts elsewhere. Option 3: Guarantee in the rules that a subcommittee can hold hearings without permission of the full committee chair.

Likely Consequences: Allowing subcommittees to meet without permission of the full committee chair could increase their ability to engage in legislative work and would likely increase the number of subcommittee hearings. While members might find additional hearings to be useful arenas in which to pursue their policy goals, more meetings would also place additional time burden on members. Option 4: Guarantee that full committees cannot meet during times subcommittees meet reserve time on the calendar each week for subcommittees to meet, if they so choose , except with the consent of the subcommittee chairs.

Likely Consequences: This reform, aimed at incentivizing subcommittee work, would, like the previous option, likely increase the number of subcommittee hearings and could have similar benefits. At the same time, it could create tension between the full committee chair and subcommittee chairs; it could also reduce the time available for full committee meetings, which are also important venues for committee work. Option 5: Eliminate or dramatically curtail the ability of lawmakers to waive the rules on unauthorized appropriations.

Likely Consequences: Restricting the ability to appropriate unauthorized funds could encourage committees and the chamber to work on authorization bills. In addition, it would be difficult to prevent this rule from being waived in the House routinely. Option 6: For some federal programs or groups of programs, move to annual authorizations similar to the National Defense Authorization Act. Likely Consequences: An annual authorization process could regularize committee operations, helping members and staff build effective working relationships. Annual authorizations would also provide additional opportunities for oversight.

Source: IBFD Tax Research Platform News

It is unclear, however, if committees would actually feel compelled to undertake annual authorizations and whether leaders would be willing to devote sufficient floor time to consider an increased number of bills in this vein. Aldrich and David W. Deering and Paul J. Curry and Frances E. Congress, 5 th ed. Dodd and Bruce I. Oppenheimer, eds. Lynch, Anthony J. Madonna, and Jason M.

CRS Reports

Miller and L. American State Papers U. Serial Set 23rd Cong. Serial Set 77th Cong. Ask at the Reference Desk.

Hearings, reports, documents, prints

GPO th Cong. Once the public law has been passed, it is "codified"; that is, various topic sections are taken out of the public law and put into the United States Code in a subject arrangement. The Code will have the public laws in their most current form; that is, the original law, with all its amendments, that is currently in effect. Proposed and final changes to agency regulations are published in the Federal Register.

The public may comment on proposed changes before they are made final. In order to get the very latest regulations, you must consult the latest Code of Federal Regulations and the Federal Register issues published subsequent to the Code. Government Documents: Legislative History. Legislative History Each United States Congress introduces legislation in the form of bills and resolutions.

See the following sources for a more detailed explanation of the legislative process:. Includes the following two links.

Enactment of a Law From the Library of Congress. The Legislative Process From Congress. Guides to Legislative Histories Federal. Look in the "Help Toolbox" for a description of the legislative process. Use pages 6 - 8 to find a bill, a public law number, or U. Code reference from another citation. Note: Wellesley may not have all sources mentioned. Go from the popular name of a public law to its public law number. Legislative histories to present. Links to the text of bill amendments in the Congressional Record. Committee Prints A committee print might include committee rules or a report on a policy issue the committee wants to distribute widely, but in a form which is less formal than a committee report.


Legislative Process -

A committee may also prepare a text which the Senate by resolution orders printed as a numbered Senate document. Debates After a bill is reported out of Committee, it precedes to the floor of the House or Senate for consideration and debate. During the debates, members argue for and against the proposed legislation. All debates on the bill are read into the Congressional Record which is the official record of the proceedings, debates and activities of Congress. Committee Consideration

The Congressional Record also contains the full text of the bill itself, the text of any amendments, and the record of votes taken. Listed below are resources for the Congressional Record.

  1. About the Congressional Research Service!
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American Memory - Congressional Record American Memory provides open access to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. Provides access to the Congressional Record through the Annals of Congress , , Register of Debates , , Congressional Globe , , Congressional Record , HeinOnline HeinOnline contains the full-text of law review journals and related legal documents, including the Code of Federal Regulations, English Reports , U. Presidential Library, U.

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Statutes at Large, and U. CRS experts prepare reports to assist Congressmen throughout the legislative process with background information on various public policy issues and debates. A typical CRS report provides a summary and overview of an issue, as well as detailed background information and recent developments. Reports contain citations of sources along with figures and tables. It has one of the largest collections of publicly submitted CRS reports available on the web covering most subject areas of interest.

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