committee

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committee,

one or more persons appointed or elected to consider, report on, or take action on a particular matter. Because of the advantages of a division of labor, legislative committees of various kinds have assumed much of the work of legislatures in many nations. Standing committees are appointed in both houses of the U.S. Congress at the beginning of every session to deal with bills in the different specific classes. Important congressional committees include ways and means; appropriations; commerce; armed services; foreign relations; and judiciary. The number, but not the scope, of the committees was much reduced in 1946. Since then there has been a large increase in the number of subcommittees, which have become steadily more important.

Members of committees are in effect elected by caucuses of the two major parties in Congress; the majority party is given the chairmanship and majority on each committee, and chairmanships, as well as membership on important committees, are influenced by seniority, but seniority is no longer the sole deciding factor and others may override it. The presiding officer of either house may appoint special committees, including those of investigation, which have the power to summon witnesses and compel the submission of evidence. The presiding officers also appoint committees of conference to obtain agreement between the two houses on the content of bills of the same general character. The U.S. legislative committee system conducts most congressional business through its powers of scrutiny and investigation of government departments.

In France the constitution of the Fifth Republic permits each legislative chamber to have no more than six standing committees. Because these committees are large, unofficial committees have formed that do much of the real work of examining bills. As in the U.S. government, these committees are quite powerful because of their ability to delay legislation. In Great Britain devices such as committees of the whole are used in the consideration of money bills and there are large standing committees of the House of Commons, but committees have not been very important in the British legislature. Recently attempts have been made to form specialized committees.

Bibliography

See L. A. Froman, The Congressional Process (1967); G. Goodwin, Jr., The Little Legislatures (1970); Congressional Quarterly, Guide to Congress (3d ed. 1982).

References in classic literature ?
I could have been a barkeeper and a hard lot just as well as not," says I, remembering the lonesome way I arrived, and how there wasn't any committee nor anything.
He said things that no doctor should say to another, but which a politician may well say, and has often said, to another politician--things which cannot bear repeating, if, for no other reason, because they are too humiliating and too little conducive to pride for the average American citizen to know; things of the inside, secret governments of imperial municipalities which the average American citizen, voting free as a king at the polls, fondly thinks he manages; things which are, on rare occasion, partly unburied and promptly reburied in the tomes of reports of Lexow Committees and Federal Commissions.
He was paying for success, too, in the demands made on his time by boards of civic enterprise and committees of public welfare.
Miners' Committees were confiscating all grub and putting the population on strict rations.
They were both at their best when serving on committees.
They've fired our four best men--the ones that was always on the conference committees.
You couldn't find anything half so precise to define the nature of your activity with all your committees and delegations.
Madame de S was pleased to discover that this young man was different from the other types of revolutionist members of committees, secret emissaries, vulgar and unmannerly fugitive professors, rough students, ex-cobblers with apostolic faces, consumptive and ragged enthusiasts, Hebrew youths, common fellows of all sorts that used to come and go around Peter Ivanovitch--fanatics, pedants, proletarians all.
He accepted, and the committee departed, followed by young Tom.
There was three ministers and three deacons on the committee, and it was only natural they should choose a serious piece; hers was too lively to suit 'em.
Several wealthy and benevolent individuals in the county subscribed largely for the erection of a more convenient building in a better situation; new regulations were made; improvements in diet and clothing introduced; the funds of the school were intrusted to the management of a committee.
A committee of twelve members was chosen to examine the proofs brought forward by Morcerf.

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