A United States congressional hearing is the principal formal method by which United States congressional committees collect and analyze information in the early stages of legislative policymaking.
Whether confirmation hearings (a procedure unique to the Senate), legislative, oversight, investigative, or a combination of these, all hearings share common elements of preparation and conduct. Hearings usually include oral testimony from witnesses and questioning of the witnesses by members of Congress. George B. Galloway termed congressional hearings a goldmine of information for all the public problems of the United States.A leading authority on U.S. government publications has referred to the published hearings as "the most important publications originating within Congress." The Senate Library in a similar vein noted "Hearings are among the most important publications originating in Congress."
Hearings were not published generally until the latter part of the 19th century, except some early hearings (generally of special investigative committees) were published in the series that are part of the Serial Set. Published hearings did not become available for purchase from the United States Government Printing Office until 1924 and were not distributed to depository libraries until 1938.Unlike the documents and reports that are compiled in the Serial Set "hearings do not constitute a real series" although in the modern era a trend toward uniformity of numbering has resulted in all Senate hearings and prints for each Congressional Session (commencing with the 98th Congress in 1983) being assigned a unique numerical designation (in the style of what one scholar dubbed a "combination code") published on the cover and title page (e.g. S. HRG. 110-113; S. PRT. 110-13). A growing number of House Committees are assigning numerical or alphabetical designations for their publications (e.g. 110-35, 110-AA).
The Law Library of Congress in a collaborative pilot project with Google is undertaking the digitizing of the Library's entire collection of printed hearings (constituting approximately 75,000 volumes). As of 2010 three collections (on the decennial Census, FOIA and Immigration) have been selectively compiled as a test. It is hoped the project will eventually provide full-text access of the entire collection which will be posted online by Google and the Library.ProQuest offers subscriptions to a database of digitized hearings (published and unpublished) covering 1824 to the present.
Committees hold legislative hearings on measures or policy issues that may become public law. Sometimes a committee holds hearings on multiple measures before ultimately choosing one vehicle for further committee and chamber action. Hearings provide a forum where facts and opinions can be presented from witnesses with varied backgrounds, including Members of Congress and other government officials, interest groups, and academics, as well as citizens likely to be directly or indirectly affected by the proposal.
Oversight hearings review or study a law, issue, or an activity, often focusing on the quality of federal programs and the performance of government officials. Hearings also ensure that the executive branch's execution goes with legislative intent, while administrative policies reflect the public interest. Oversight hearings often seek to improve the efficiency, economy, and effectiveness of government operations. A significant part of a committee's hearings workload is dedicated to oversight. For example, on a single day, May 8, 1996, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held an oversight hearing to look into a recent increase in gasoline prices; the Committee on Governmental Affairs held an oversight hearing on the Internal Revenue Service; the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held an oversight hearing on the implementation of the Family and Medical Leave Act; and the Committee on Indian Affairs held an oversight hearing on the impact of a recent Supreme Court case involving Indian gaming. Many committees oversee existing programs in the context of hearings on related legislation, or routinely perform oversight when it is time to reauthorize a program, so oversight hearings may be combined with legislative hearings.
Investigative hearings share some of the characteristics of legislative and oversight hearings. The difference lies in Congress's stated determination to investigate, usually when there is a suspicion of wrongdoing on the part of public officials acting in their official capacity, or private citizens whose activities suggest the need for a legislative remedy. Congress's authority to investigate is broad and it has exercised this authority since the earliest days of the republic. The first such hearings were held by the House of Representatives in 1792 following St. Clair's Defeat in the Battle of the Wabash.Its most famous inquiries are benchmarks in American history: Credit Mobilier, Teapot Dome, Army-McCarthy, Watergate, and Iran-Contra. Investigative hearings often lead to legislation to address the problems uncovered. Judicial activities in the same area of Congress's investigation may precede, run simultaneously with, or follow such inquiries.
Confirmation hearings on presidential nominations are held in fulfillment of the Senate's constitutional "advice and consent" responsibilities under the Appointments Clause. Each Senate committee holds confirmation hearings on presidential nominations to executive and judicial positions within its jurisdiction. These hearings often offer an opportunity for oversight into the activities of the nominee's department or agency. While the vast majority of confirmation hearings are routine, some are controversial.
The Senate, as required by the Treaty Clause of the Constitution, must consent to the ratification of treaties negotiated by the executive branch with foreign governments. In October 1999, for example, the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Armed Services held hearings on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Also that year the Committee on Foreign Relations held hearings on ratifying tax treaties with Estonia, Venezuela, Denmark, and other nations.
Field hearings are Congressional hearings held outside Washington. The formal authority for field hearings is found implicitly in the chamber rules. Senate Rule XXVI, paragraph 1 states that a committee "is authorized to hold hearings … at such times and places during the sessions, recesses, and adjourned periods of the Senate" as it sees fit. Otherwise, there is no distinction between field hearings and those held in Washington. In the 106th Congress, for example, the Committee on Commerce held a field hearing in Bellingham, Washington, on a liquid pipeline explosion in that city, and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a field hearing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on a bill to review the ability of the National Laboratories to meet Department of Energy standards. While field hearings involve some matters different from Washington hearings, most of the procedural requirements are the same. However, funding for committee travel must meet regulations established by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.
Most individuals respond favorably to an invitation to testify, believing it to be a valuable opportunity to communicate and publicize their views on a question of public policy. However, if a person will not come by invitation alone, a committee or subcommittee may require an appearance through the issuance of a subpoena (Rule XXVI, paragraph 1). Committees also may subpoena correspondence, books, papers, and other documents. Subpoenas are issued infrequently, and most often in the course of investigative hearings.
The vast majority of committee hearings are open to the public, as required under Senate rules. But a hearing, like other committee meetings, may be closed for specific reasons stated in Senate rules (Rule XXVI, paragraph 5(b)). A committee may close a hearing if it
The Senate rules also contain a specific procedure for closing a hearing. By motion of any Senator, if seconded, a committee may close a session temporarily to discuss whether there is a need to close a hearing for any of the reasons stated above. If so, the committee can close the hearing by majority roll call vote in open session. By this procedure, a committee can close a hearing or a series of sessions on a particular subject for no more than 14 calendar days.
The United States Congress or U.S. Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States and consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Both senators and representatives are chosen through direct election, though vacancies in the Senate may be filled by a governor's appointment. Congress has 535 voting members: 100 senators and 435 representatives, the latter defined by the Reapportionment Act of 1929. In addition, the House of Representatives has six non-voting members, bringing the total membership of the Congress to 541 or fewer in the case of vacancies.
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the United States, a federal republic in North America, composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories and several island possessions. The federal government is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, executive, and judicial, whose powers are vested by the U.S. Constitution in the Congress, the president and the federal courts, respectively. The powers and duties of these branches are further defined by acts of Congress, including the creation of executive departments and courts inferior to the Supreme Court.
Executive privilege is the right of the president of the United States and other members of the executive branch to maintain confidential communications under certain circumstances within the executive branch and to resist some subpoenas and other oversight by the legislative and judicial branches of government in pursuit of particular information or personnel relating to those confidential communications. The right comes into effect when revealing information would impair governmental functions. Neither executive privilege nor the oversight power of Congress is explicitly mentioned in the United States Constitution. However, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that executive privilege and congressional oversight each are a consequence of the doctrine of the separation of powers, derived from the supremacy of each branch in its own area of Constitutional activity.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS), known as Congress's think tank, is a public policy research institute of the United States Congress. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS works primarily and directly for Members of Congress, their Committees and staff on a confidential, nonpartisan basis.
Contempt of Congress is the act of obstructing the work of the United States Congress or one of its committees. Historically, the bribery of a U.S. Senator or U.S. Representative was considered contempt of Congress. In modern times, contempt of Congress has generally applied to the refusal to comply with a subpoena issued by a Congressional committee or subcommittee—usually seeking to compel either testimony or the production of requested documents.
A congressional committee is a legislative sub-organization in the United States Congress that handles a specific duty. Committee membership enables members to develop specialized knowledge of the matters under their jurisdiction. As "little legislatures", the committees monitor ongoing governmental operations, identify issues suitable for legislative review, gather and evaluate information, and recommend courses of action to their parent body. Woodrow Wilson once wrote, "it is not far from the truth to say that Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work." It is not expected that a member of Congress be an expert on all matters and subject areas that come before Congress. Congressional committees provide valuable informational services to Congress by investigating and reporting about specialized subjects.
The U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security is a standing committee of the United States House of Representatives. Its responsibilities include U.S. security legislation and oversight of the Department of Homeland Security.
The Committee on Oversight and Reform is the main investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives.
Impeachment in the United States is the process by which a legislature brings charges against a civil officer of government for crimes alleged to have been committed, analogous to the bringing of an indictment by a grand jury. Impeachment may occur at the federal level or the state level. The federal House of Representatives can impeach federal officials, including the president, and each state's legislature can impeach state officials, including the governor, in accordance with their respective federal or state constitution.
Advice and consent is an English phrase frequently used in enacting formulae of bills and in other legal or constitutional contexts. It describes either of two situations: where a weak executive branch of a government enacts something previously approved of by the legislative branch or where the legislative branch concurs and approves something previously enacted by a strong executive branch.
Congressional oversight is oversight by the United States Congress over the Executive Branch, including the numerous U.S. federal agencies. Congressional oversight includes the review, monitoring, and supervision of federal agencies, programs, activities, and policy implementation. Congress exercises this power largely through its congressional committee system. Oversight also occurs in a wide variety of congressional activities and contexts. These include authorization, appropriations, investigative, and legislative hearings by standing committees; which is specialized investigations by select committees; and reviews and studies by congressional support agencies and staff.
The various documents obtained by request or subpoena during dismissal of U.S attorneys controversy by both the United States House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary, originally produced by the Department of Justice (DOJ) or White House have been made available to the public and press via the two congressional judiciary committees' web sites. The documents received a great deal of attention in the United States press from March 2007 onward, and have been repeatedly cited or excerpted in news reports, editorials and analyses. The documents largely include copies of memoranda and email among leadership and key individuals within the United States Department of Justice, as well as key members of the Executive Office of the President, commonly termed White House.
United States Intelligence Community Oversight duties are shared by both the executive and legislative branches of the government. Oversight, in this case, is the supervision of intelligence agencies, and making them accountable for their actions. Generally oversight bodies look at the following general issues: following policymaker needs, the quality of analysis, operations, and legality of actions.
Neri v. Senate is a controversial 9–6 ruling of the Supreme Court of the Philippines which affirmed the invocation of executive privilege by petitioner Romulo Neri, member of the Cabinet of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, regarding questions asked during a Congressional inquiry on the controversial multimillion-dollar National Broadband Network (NBN) Project. The Supreme Court finally affirmed this ruling on September 4 and 23, 2008 by denying the defendant Senate Committees' first and second Motions for Reconsideration.
The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which, along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—constitutes the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 was an act of the United States Congress to "improve the operation of the legislative branch of the Federal Government, and for other purposes." The act focused mainly on the rules that governed congressional committee procedures, decreasing the power of the chair and empowering minority members, and on making House and Senate processes more transparent.
McGrain v. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135 (1927), was a case heard before the Supreme Court, decided January 17, 1927. It was a challenge to Mally Daugherty's contempt conviction and arrest, which happened when he failed to appear before a Senate committee investigating the failure of his brother, Attorney General Harry Daugherty, to investigate the perpetrators of the Teapot Dome Scandal. The Court upheld his conviction.
The U.S. Congress in relation to the president and Supreme Court has the role of chief legislative body of the United States. However, the Founding Fathers of the United States built a system in which three powerful branches of the government, using a series of checks and balances, could limit each other's power. As a result, it helps to understand how the United States Congress interacts with the presidency as well as the Supreme Court to understand how it operates as a group.
The Administrative Procedure Act (APA), Pub.L. 79–404, 60 Stat. 237, enacted June 11, 1946, is the United States federal statute that governs the way in which administrative agencies of the federal government of the United States may propose and establish regulations and grants U.S. federal courts oversight over all agency actions. It is one of the most important pieces of United States administrative law, and serves as a sort of "constitution" for U.S. administrative law.
Trevor Neil McFadden is an American attorney and jurist who serves as a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Previously, he was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice.
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