United States House Committee on Oversight and Reform

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House Oversight Committee
Standing committee
Active
Seal of the United States House of Representatives.svg
United States House of Representatives
116th Congress
House Oversight Committee.png
History
Formed1927
Leadership
ChairElijah Cummings (D)
Since January 3, 2019
Ranking memberJim Jordan (R)
Since January 3, 2019
Vice chairKatie Hill (D)
Since January 3, 2019
Structure
Seats42
Political partiesMajority (24)
Minority (18)
Subcommittees
Website
oversight.house.gov

The Committee on Oversight and Reform is the main investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives.

The committee's broad jurisdiction and legislative authority make it one of the most influential and powerful panels in the House. Its chairman is one of only three in the House with the authority to issue subpoenas without a committee vote or consultation with the ranking member.[1] However, in recent history, it has become practice to refrain from unilateral subpoenas.[2]

As of the 116th Congress, the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee is Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland),[3][4] and the ranking member is Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).[4]

History[edit]

The panel now known as the Committee on Oversight and Reform was originally the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments, created in 1927 to consolidate 11 separate Committees on Expenditures that had previously overseen the spending of various departments of the federal government.[5][6]

The modern-day committee's immediate predecessor, the Committee on Government Operations, was established in 1952.[5] The new name was intended to reflect the committee's broad mission: to oversee "the operations of Government activities at all levels with a view to determining their economy and efficiency".[6]

After Republicans gained control of the House in the 1994 elections, the committee was reorganized to include seven subcommittees instead of 14. This reorganization consolidated the jurisdiction previously covered by three full committees and resulted in a 50 percent cut in staff.[7] In 2007, a reorganization under a new Democratic majority combined the duties of the seven subcommittees into five.[8]

In the 106th Congress, the panel was renamed the Committee on Government Reform. While retaining the agenda of the former Committee on Government Operations, the new committee also took on the responsibilities of the former House Committee on the Post Office and Civil Service and the Committee on the District of Columbia. On January 4, 2007, the 110th Congress renamed it the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The name was changed again by the 116th Congress to its current iteration: the Committee on Oversight and Reform. Since 2007, it has been called the "Oversight Committee" for short.

Subpoena usage[edit]

In 1997, the Republican majority on the committee changed its rules to allow the chairman, Dan Burton (R-Indiana), to issue subpoenas without the consent of the committee's ranking Democrat.[9] From 1997 to 2002, Burton used this authority to issue 1,052 unilateral subpoenas, many of them related to alleged misconduct by President Bill Clinton, at a cost of more than $35 million.[10]

By contrast, from 2003 to 2005, under the chairmanship of Tom Davis (R-Virginia), the committee issued only three subpoenas to the Bush administration.[10]

After Republicans retook the House in the 2010 elections, the new chairman, Darrell Issa (R-California), escalated the use of subpoenas again, issuing more than 100 in four years during the Obama administration.[11] That was more than the combined total issued by the previous three chairmen—Davis, Henry Waxman (D-California), and Edolphus Towns (D-New York)—from 2003 to 2010.[12]

Prominent hearings and investigations[edit]

Between 2000 and 2006, many major events and scandals in the Bush administration generated few or no subpoenas from the Republican-led committee. These events included the September 11 attacks; the leaking of classified information identifying Central Intelligence Agency agent Valerie Plame; CIA-backed abuses and war crimes at Abu Ghraib prison; the emergence of evidence that the Bush administration had knowingly lied in claiming that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction; illegal campaign contributions by lobbyists, including Jack Abramoff; thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in preventable damage due to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's weak response to Hurricane Katrina; and Philip Cooney's suppression of accepted scientific data demonstrating the existence of global warming. After the release of the Downing Street memo, which contained incriminating information on the buildup to the Iraq War, Democrats in the minority were refused a hearing chamber and were forced to meet in the basement of the United States Capitol.[13]

However, under Davis's chairmanship from 2003–2007, the committee launched two controversial investigations. One of those investigations—triggered by the publication of Jose Canseco's memoir, Juicedconcerned the use of anabolic steroids by Major League Baseball players.[14] The other was an inquiry into the Terri Schiavo case.

In that investigation, which concerned the removal of a feeding tube from a woman in a persistent vegetative state, the committee issued a subpoena requiring Schiavo to "appear" so that members could "examine nutrition and hydration which incapacitated patients receive as part of their care".[15] The apparent objective of this, beyond providing information to committee members, was to delay the pending withdrawal of life support from Schiavo, whose wishes were in dispute, while Congress considered legislation specifically targeted at her case. Members of the Democratic minority opposed the action. Chairman Davis said it was "a legitimate legislative inquiry".[16]

The committee also investigated World Wrestling Entertainment's wellness and drug policies, amid speculation about a possible link between steroid use and the death of WWE performer Chris Benoit.[17]

On July 8, 2009, committee Republicans released an investigative staff report discussing the financial crisis of 2007–2008. The report alleged that the government had caused the collapse by meddling in the United States' housing and lending market in the name of "affordable housing".[18]

In February 2012, the committee held a hearing on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's mandate that would "require all employers to cover birth control free of cost to women". Specifically, Republicans on the committee alleged that the Department of Health and Human Services's rules governing exemptions for religious institutions violated the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution.[19] The chairman, Darrell Issa, said the hearing was "meant to be more broadly about religious freedom and not specifically about the contraception mandate in the Health Reform law".[20]

After Aaron Swartz committed suicide on January 11, 2013, the committee investigated the Justice Department’s actions in prosecuting Swartz on hacking charges.[21] On January 28, Issa and ranking member Elijah Cummings published a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, questioning whether prosecutors had intentionally added felony counts to increase the amount of prison time Swartz faced.[22]

On July 10, 2019 a hearing was held by the United States House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties entitled "Kids in Cages: Inhumane Treatment at the Border" on the "inhumane treatment of children and families" inside child detention centers on the southern US border. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) chaired the session which included testimony from Yazmin Juarez, the mother of Mariee who died at the age of nineteen months while detained in an United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) center in Dilley, Texas.[23] In his opening statement Raskin said that "hundreds of thousands of people" have responded to the "harsh policies" by deciding to "migrate now before things get even worse".[24]

Members, 116th Congress[edit]

Majority Minority

Sources: H.Res. 24 (Chair), H.Res. 25 (Ranking Member), H.Res. 67 (D), H.Res. 68 (R)

Historical membership rosters[edit]

116th Congress (prior to July 8, 2019)[edit]

Majority Minority

115th Congress[edit]

Majority Minority

Sources: H.Res. 6 (Chair), H.Res. 7 (Ranking Member), H.Res. 45 (D) H.Res. 51 (R), H.Res. 52, H.Res. 95 and H.Res. 127 (D)

Subcommittees[edit]

The Committee on Oversight and Reform has five subcommittees.[25][26]

Subcommittee Chair Ranking Member
National Security Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA) Jody Hice (R-GA)
Government Operations Gerry Connolly (D-VA) Mark Meadows (R-NC)
Economic and Consumer Policy Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) Michael Cloud (R-TX)
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Jamie Raskin (D-MD) Chip Roy (R-TX)
Environment Harley Rouda (D-CA) James Comer (R-KY)

Chairmen[edit]

Chairman Party State Years
William Williamson Republican South Dakota 1927–1931
John J. Cochran Democratic Missouri 1931–1940
James A. O'Leary Democratic New York 1940–1944
Carter Manasco Democratic Alabama 1944–1947
Clare Hoffman Republican Michigan 1947–1949
William L. Dawson Democratic Illinois 1949–1953
Clare Hoffman Republican Michigan 1953–1955
William L. Dawson Democratic Illinois 1955–1970
Chester E. Holifield Democratic California 1970–1974
Jack Brooks Democratic Texas 1975–1989
John Conyers Democratic Michigan 1989–1995
William F. Clinger Republican Pennsylvania 1995–1997
Dan Burton Republican Indiana 1997–2003
Tom Davis Republican Virginia 2003–2007
Henry Waxman Democratic California 2007–2009
Edolphus Towns Democratic New York 2009–2011
Darrell Issa Republican California 2011–2015
Jason Chaffetz Republican Utah 2015–2017
Trey Gowdy Republican South Carolina 2017–2019
Elijah Cummings Democratic Maryland 2019-present

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Koempel, Michael (March 16, 2017). "A Survey of House and Senate Committee Rules on Subpoenas" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  2. ^ "Cummings to Issa: Unilateral subpoenas, access to records" (PDF). January 24, 2011. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  3. ^ "Cummings Named Oversight Committee Chairman" (Press release). Committee on Oversight and Reform. 2019-01-04. Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  4. ^ a b "Oversight and Reform Members". House Committee on Oversight and Reform. 2015-01-28. Retrieved 2019-03-07.
  5. ^ a b "House Committee on Government Reform". www.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-07.
  6. ^ a b "Oversight Plan". lobby.la.psu.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-07.
  7. ^ "Committee on Government Reform: Background/History" (PDF). House.gov. 2006-05-20. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 8, 2006. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  8. ^ Chairman Waxman Announces Committee Organization Archived January 31, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Green, Joshua (2018-11-07). "Republicans Weaponized the House. Now, Democrats Will Use It Against Trump". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 2019-03-07.
  10. ^ a b Milbank, Dana (December 18, 2005). "Bush's Fumbles Spur New Talk of Oversight on Hill". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  11. ^ Wire, Sarah D. (2017-07-17). "Darrell Issa was Obama's toughest critic. Here's why he's suddenly sounding like a moderate". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019-03-07.
  12. ^ "Cummings Objects To Issa 'Subpoena Binge' After Benghazi Taken Away From Oversight Committee". House Committee on Oversight and Reform. 2014-07-09. Retrieved 2019-03-07.
  13. ^ Kuhn, David Paul (June 17, 2005). "Just hearsay, or the new Watergate tapes?". Salon. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  14. ^ Lindorff, Dave (March 19, 2005). "Congress on Steroids". Counterpunch. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  15. ^ "Davis to Schiavo subpoena" (PDF). Abstractappeal.com. March 18, 2005. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  16. ^ Adair, Bill; Nohlgren, Stephen (March 19, 2005). "Republicans flex subpoena muscle". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  17. ^ "Congress wants WWE's info on steroids, doping". MSNBC. July 28, 2007. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  18. ^ [1] Archived July 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Pear, Robert (2012-02-16). "Birth Control Coverage Rule Debated at House Hearing". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-07.
  20. ^ Shine, Tom (February 16, 2012). "Rep. Darrell Issa Bars Minority Witness, a Woman, on Contraception". ABC News. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  21. ^ Sasso, Brendan. "Lawmakers slam DOJ prosecution of Swartz as 'ridiculous, absurd'". Hillicon Valley. The hill. Retrieved 2013-01-16.
  22. ^ Zetter, Kim. "Congress Demands Justice Department Explain Aaron Swartz Prosecution | Threat Level". Wired.com. Retrieved 2013-02-01.
  23. ^ Jamie Raskin (July 10, 2019). House hearing on conditions in child detention centers (video). United States House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Washington, DC: Guardian News. Retrieved July 11, 2019. Ronald Vitiello, former chief of US Border Patrol and former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also testifies.
  24. ^ Raskin, Jamie (July 10, 2019). "Chairman Raskin's Opening Statement at Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Hearing on Treatment of Immigrant Children". Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  25. ^ "Cummings Announces Subcommittee Chairs and Full Committee Vice Chair".
  26. ^ Committee on Oversight and Reform: Subcommittees – 116th Congress

External links[edit]