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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.


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 periodicals archive ?
House also decided to set up a Steering Committee which would formulate the procedure for the Special Committee of the whole House and also assist and help the Special Committee in resolving the issue.
Paradoxically, perhaps, the emergence of the committee of the Whole House actually served to make the Commons less rather than more powerful.
Sisk asked rhetorically whether the Cordova amendment "would be interpreted so that he would be entitled to vote in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union.
The time taken by constitutional measures tends to be greater than for other bills -- in part because of the levels of controversy and in part because of the use of a committee of the whole House -- and can affect the introduction and passage of other legislation.
It would pave way for early passage of the bill as compared to a lengthy discussion in the Senate committee of the whole house, he added.
ISLAMABAD -- Following the leak of information about the in-camera briefing of Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to the Senate Committee of the Whole House, the Senate on Thursday amended its rules to protect the secrecy of the in-camera meetings a move that puts a question mark on the openness and transparency of the parliament.
The amendment was made at the Committee of the whole House, presided by the Deputy Speaker, Mr Yussuff Lasun.
Islamabad -- Army leadership on Tuesday briefed Senators at an in-camera briefing to the Committee of the Whole House on the national security paradigm.
This will be the first time in Pakistan's parliamentary history that the army chief will brief the Senate Committee of the Whole House on the matters pertaining to national security and the region.
General Bajwa will brief the Senate Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday (December 19).
The one-point agenda issued for Tuesday's meeting of the Committee of the Whole House formed by the chairman is aimed at preparing "policy guidelines in the light of the emerging regional realities and the role of the United States".
The Committee of the Whole House chaired by Speaker will debate the two reports and vote on each of them- including the controversial proposed amendments- before a final decision is made.

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