Page images

1945. There were 47 fewer standing committees, 4 less special committees, 4 more joint committees, and 16 more standing subcommittees. Four Senate committees (Foreign Relations, Armed Services, Finance, and Commerce) and 5 House committees (Banking and Currency, Commerce, Post Office and Civil Service, Rules, and Ways and Means) have no standing subcommittees at the present time. (See table 2.)

4. The jurisdiction of the standing committees in both Houses has been defined and clarified in their rules. As a result, there has been a noteworthy reduction in jurisdictional conflicts between committees over the reference of bills. Only eight jurisdictional questions arose in the Senate in the last session, of which six involved real dispute. Twelve House bills were re-referred by unanimous consent during the last session, but none of these apparently involved conflict between committees. (See exhibits A and B.)

5. Under section 133 of the act, committee procedure has been regularized as regards periodic meeting days, the keeping of committee records, the reporting of approved measures, the presence of a majority of committeemen as a condition of committee action, and the conduct of hearings.

6. Conference committees have been limited (by sec. 135 of the act) in reporting new matter not committed to them. Only one point of order against a conference report was made in the House during the last session and this was overruled by the Speaker. No such points of order were made in the Senate last session.

7. Committee offices, staff personnel, and records are now kept separate and distinct from those of committee chairmen, under section 202°(d) of the act, an obvious improvement.

8. Open hearings were held by most congressional committees during the last session, with the exception of the House Committee on Appropriations, in accordance with section 133 (f) of the act.

9. Out of 26 special investigations authorized by the Senate during 1947, 24 were conducted by standing committees of the Senate and only 2 by select committees (Small Business and National Defense). (See table 3.)

10. Out of 27 special investigations authorized by the House of Representatives during 1947, 23 were conducted by standing committees of the House and only 4 by select committees (Foreign Aid, Newsprint, Small Business, and Commodity Exchanges). (See table 4.)

11. Party policy committees have been set up in the Senate to plan the legislative program, coordinate committee activity, and strengthen party responsibility. Although provided for in a separate act of the Seventy-ninth Congress, the creation of such policy committees was originally recommended by the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress and approved by the Senate in passing the legislative reorganization bill. Noteworthy progress has been achieved by these over-all policy committees in the upper Chamber in the performance of their important functions. The Senate Majority Policy Committee now has a professional staff of seven persons under the able direction of Mr. George H. E. Smith, its staff director, and three clerks. The Minority Policy Committee, of which Leslie L. Biffle is staff director, has a combined staff or nine persons. In the staffing of Congress

Additional staff aids have been provided for the Members and committees of Congress.

1. Ninety-one Senators are being aided by administrative assistants. Five Senators have not yet appointed such assistants (Barkley, Donnell, Langer, McKellar, and Wilson).

2. There has been a 3343 percent increase in the staff of the Office of Legislative Counsel. Each of the two offices now has a staff of six counselors and six law assistants and clerks.

3. During the latter half of 1947 the standing committees of the Senate had a combined professional staff of 43 persons (out of an authorized 60) and a combined clerical staff of 90 persons. One hundred and two additional investigators and assistants were being employed by Senate subcommittees pursuant to special investigations. nly 3 out of 15 Senate standing committees had their fully authorized complement of professional staff members. Nineteen professionals, 33 clerks, and 8 others were employed by the Small Business and National Defense select committees of the Senate during the latter half of 1947. Altogether, 285 persons were assisting the committees of the Senate during the period under review. The gross annual salary of all Senate committee employees during 1947 aggregated $1,589,598.73. (See table 5.)

By Mi. Hoffman on June 4, 1947, against the conference report on the bill (H. R. 3020) to prescribe fair wd equitagle rules of conduct to be observed by labor and management in their relations with one another,

4. During the latter half of 1947 the standing committees of the House of Representatives had a combined professional staff of 43 persons, out of an authorized 72, exclusive of the Committee on Appropriations, and a combined clerical staff of 116 persons. Eight of the 19 standing committees of the House had their full complement of professional staff members at this time. Fifty-seven additional investigators and consultants were being employed by House committees pursuant to special investigations, Twenty-five professionals and 19 clerks were employed by the House Select Committees on Foreign Aid, Newsprint, and Small Business during the latter half of 1947. Altogether, 260 persons were assisting the committees of the House during the period under review. The gross annual salary of all House committee employees during 1947 aggregated $1,040,673.35. (See table 6.)

5. As of December 1947, the Members and committees of Congress were being assisted by 15 new senior specialists in as many subject matter fields and by 8 research assistants in the advanced research section of the Legislative Reference Service. Five of these senior specialists had been detailed to the professional staffs of congressional committees and were serving them on a full-time basis. Two of them (Galloway and F. O. Wilcox) were serving as professional staff directors of their committees. No uniform pattern of relationships between the Legislation Reference Service and congressional committees had yet developed.

6. Committee staff work during the last session was being largely done on a nonpartisan basis, ace ording to replies received to one of your questionnaires.

7. The setting-up of twin committee systems in both Houses has been followed by considerable intercameral staff cooperation and joint action. This has been evident, for example, in foreign affairs, fiscal affairs, housing, and on the reorganization of the government of the District of Columbia. In reduction of work load

1. The work load on Congress caused by private bills has been considerably reduced as a result of the ban imposed by section 131 of the act upon the introduction of four classes of such legislation, pension bills, tort-claims bills, bridge bills, and bills for the correction of military or naval records. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act (title IV of the Legislative Reorganization Act) private claims for which the cause of action accrued prior to January 1, 1945, may be handled in the same manner as they were before passage of Public Law 601, except that bills providing for their payment or adjudication are now generally referred to the Judiciary Committees. As a result of this and other exceptions, which had not been recommended by the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, the Judiciary Committees were engulfed by a flood of private claims bills during the first session of the eightieth Congress. One thousand private claims bills were referred to the House Judiciary Committee during the session, as well as 540 private immigration bills, the introduction of which is still permissible. The Senate Committee on the Judiciary received 150 private claims bills and 176 private immigration bills during the session. At the end of the session threefourths of all the bills on the House Judiciary Committee calendar were private bills; and 37 percent of those on the calendar of the Senate Judiciary Committee were private bills. Thus, these committees carry the heaviest work load of any in Congress. They need to be relieved of bills "for the relief of


2. A measure of the reduction of the work load on Senators is seen in the decline in the number of Senate committee assignments from the Seventy-ninth to the Eightieth Congresses. Table 7 shows that the total number of Senate committee assignments decreased from 1,030 during the Seventy-ninth Congress to 516 during the first session of the Eightieth Congress, a reduction of 50 percent. It also shows that the average number of committee assignments of all kinds for each Senator has decreased from 10.7 to 5.4 since 1946.

In discussing the effects of the act upon the congressional work load, let me say that the proponents of a more efficient Congress have never claimed that structural reforms in our legislative machinery would reduce the volume of congressional business. The purpose of the changes in committee structure was not so much to reduce the work load as it was to effect a more systematic and rational division of labor among the reorganized committees. The organization of committee work in the Eightieth Congress is an improvement over the previous situation as a result of the elimination of duplicating and overlapping jurisdictions and the consolidation of related functions effected by the La Follette-Monroney Act, although there may be room for further improvement in this direction. 2 See Report of the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, 79th Cong., 2d Senate Report No. 1011, p. 25.


In supervising the executive branch

1. Legislative oversight of the administration of the laws via the standing committees of Congress was authorized by section 136 of the act and some first steps have been taken to carry out this provision. A survey of committee activity during the last session shows that at least eight standing committees of the Senate and seven in the House were actively engaged in the performance of the oversight function. (See exhibit C.) Prominent among them in this respect were the Appropriations and Expenditures Committees of both Houses and the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee of the House. The results achieved by these committees in the exercise of their supervisory function are and will be reflected in their reports upon the agencies and activities which they have been investigating. Many of the standing committees of Congress have been too heavily burdened to date with their legislative duties to keep very close watch upon the executive agencies within their jurisdiction. Miscellaneous gains

1. _On half of the 22 general appropriation bills passed by the first session of the Eightieth Congress, time was allowed in both Houses for Members to study the committee hearings and reports before the appropriation bills were taken up on the floor.

2. The legislative time schedule has been regularized by the provision for adjournment at the end of July. This leaves 5 months each year for closer contacts with constituents and for instructive travel at home and abroad.

3. The usefulness of the Congressional Record has been improved by the inclusion therein of a Daily Digest and, at intervals, of a résumé of congressional activities. The Digest has a staff composed of two editors, two reporters, and two secretaries who cover Chamber action and committee meetings for both Houses every day.

4. Almost 1,000 lobbyists have registered under title III of the act, but only a little over 200 have filed the required quarterly financial statements.

5. Congressional salaries have been increased 50 percent and retirement pay has been provided for Members of Congress.

6. As a measure of increased efficiency, total public laws passed by the Eightieth Congress, 1st session, were 395 compared with 293 by the Seventy-ninth Congress, first session. Meanwhile, total private bills enacted declined from 365 in the first session of the Seventy-ninth Congress to 131 in the first session of the Eightieth Congress-reflecting a commendable shift in legislative attention from private to public measures.

Thus, while important potential benefits remain to be achieved from the full enforcement of the act, it cannot be denied, that the new law has resulted thus far in some very substantial gains in committee structure and operation, in the staffing of Congress, in the reduction of the work load, and in supervising the administration, despite some academic and editorial comment to the contrary.


No major amendments of the Legislative Reorganization Act were made during the last session. Presumably Congress desired to adapt itself to the extensive new arrangements before making any further changes or additions. However, five minor amendments to the act were approved during the session under review.

1. In order to prevent the loss of committee personnel during the transition from the old to the new regime, one amendment provided that standing committees' employees in both houses and the employees of certain Senators should be continued on the pay rolls through January 31, 1947 (Public Law 1, 80th Cong.).

2. A second amendment placed a lower ceiling on the annual rate of compensation for part of the clerical staffs of Senate standing committees (Public Law 4, 80th Cong.).

3. A third amendment made it clear that the rates of annual compensation for committee employees prescribed in section 202 (e) of the act were basic rates (Public Law 271, 80th Cong., p. 2).

4. Sections 410 and 420 of the Federal Tort Claims Act were amended so as to make the United States liable for actual or compensatory damages in States which provide for only punitive damages (Alabama and Massachusetts) so as to equalize the application of this act throughout the country, and so as to extend the statute of limitations in such states to 2 years from the effective date of the act (Public Law 324, 80th Cong.).



5. Section 134 (b) of the act was amended to provide for the publication of information concerning committee employees and expenditures in the Congressional Record semiannually instead of in the Congressional Directory (S. Res. 123, 80th Cong.).


Eighteen violations of the prohibition against including substantive legislation in appropriation bills were noted. Section 121 (2) (d)

The Committee on House Administration made its final report to the House on contested-election cases (eight) on July 23, 1947, “later than 6 months from the first day of the first regular session Section 133 (e)

Not all witnesses filed written statements in advance of their appearance before congressional committees. Section 133 (f)

Not all standing committee hearings were open to the public. The House Committee on Appropriations was the chief exception here. Section 138

The legislative budget provisions were partly carried out, but the concurrent resolution was not adopted because it became deadlocked in conference. Section 139 (a)

Provision for a 3-day interval between report and floor consideration of general appropriation bills was violated 11 times in the House and 12 times in the Senate. Section 139 (6)

Standard appropriation classification schedule has not yet been developed by the Committees on Appropriations. Senate Appropriations Committee was not fully staffed until mid-October 1947 and can work on this only during recess. Section 139 (d)

Recommendations to limit permanent appropriations have not yet been submitted by the Committee on Appropriations. Senate Appropriations Committee was not fully staffed until mid-October 1947 and can work on this only during


Section 203 (c)

Authorized $650,000 for Legislative Reference Service for fiscal 1948; $450,000 was appropriated. Section 204

Authorized $200,000 for Office of Legislative Counsel; $160,000 was appropriated. Section 205

Studies by Comptroller General of obsolete restrictions in appropriation acts not yet made owing to lack of funds. Section 206

Expenditure analyses by Comptroller General. Congress failed to appropriate funds requested for this purpose. Title III

Probably many lobbyists have failed to register and file financial statements. According to press reports on January 15, 1948, the Attorney General has authorized investigation and prosecution of alleged violations of the Lobby Act


The next steps in the current evolution toward a more efficient national legislature, when Congress is ready to consider them, may well include the following: In committee structure and operation

1. Discontinuance of all special committees in both Houses: The jurisdiction of the standing committees has been so comprehensively defined in the reformed rules as to cover every conceivable subject of legislation. Thus, to set up a

special committee is to trespass upon the assigned jurisdiction of some standing committee.

The standing committees of Congress have been authorized by the Legislative Reorganization Act to exercise oversight of the execution of the laws by the administrative agencies within their respective jurisdictions. They have been equipped with professional staffs and expert investigators to assist them in performing their oversight function. Hereafter the investigatory function of Congress might better be performed by its standing committees which have been empowered and equipped for the purpose instead of relying upon select committees which are sporadic in nature and which cannot introduce legislation to give effect to their recommendations.

The reformed rules limit Members of Congress to service on one or two standing committees each, with minor exceptions, so that they can meet their legislative responsibilities more effectively. If, in addition, Members are appointed to serve on select committees, the burdens of committee work will be correspondingly multiplied and the old evils of poor attendance and scattered attention will return.

Creation of special committees to deal with subjects already assigned to standing committees is also a burden to, and impairs the efficiency of, the executive agencies of the Government by requiring their officials to repeat their testimony on the same subjects before several committees of the Congress.

Moreover, sporadic inquiries by select committees lack continuity and fail to provide the members of standing committees with direct knowledge of the information gathered. In cases where legislative action is indicated, standing committees find it necessary to do much of the work over again.

Modernization of the congressional committee structure, achieved by the Legislative Reorganization Act, was the keystone in the arch of congressional reform. In passing the La Follette bill on June 10, 1946, the Senate approved of the ban on special committees by a vote of 49 to 16. This section was dropped from the bill before it reached the floor of the House, which never had an opportunity to consider the proposed ban. The integrity of the reformed committee structure was breached only twice by the Senate and four times by the House during the last session (with the minor exception of the Select Committees on Reconstruction of Roofs and Skylights). As noted above, the overwhelming majority of special investigations authorized last year were assigned to standing committees of the Senate and House.

2. Discontinuance of the Joint Committee on Reduction of Nonessential Federal Expenditures: This committee was established by section 601 of the Revenue Act of 1941 (55 Stat. 726) “to make a full and complete study and investigation of all expenditures of the Federal Government with a view to recommending the elimination or reduction of all such expenditures deemed by the committee to be nonessential.This joint committee has made many useful studies and reports during the last 6 years and has rendered a great public service. But its function overlaps that of the Committees on Expenditures in the Executive Departments. which, having been rejuvenated by the Legislative Reorganization Act, are now equipped to assume their historic responsibilities in this field.

3. Selection of committee chairmen by some better method than seniority. The preponderant judgment of many legislators, political scientists, and students of the congressional committee system is that the seniority custom is not the best method of selection and that some substitute should be sought. What qualifications has the country a right to expect of the chairmen of congressional committees? I suggest three basic prerequisites: Ability, which embraces knowledge, training, and experience; loyalty to the national interest rather than to local or sectional interests; and a sense of political responsibility to execute party covenants with the people.

What method of selecting committee chairmen would be most likely to insure the choice of persons possessing these qualifications? There are ceivable methods of selection:

(1) Appointment by the Speaker of the House and the presiding officer of the Senate (or the majority leaders in each chamber).

Secret election by committee members. (3) Secret election by party caucus. (4) Selection by a committee on committees (or the Rules Committee). (5) Automatic elevation by seniority. (6) Automatic rotation in office at periodic intervals. (7) Election from the floor.



« PreviousContinue »