What Is Congress?
Making laws is the U.S. House of Representatives' most important job. Committees play an important role in this process. To learn how laws are made, visit How a Bill Becomes a Law.
In early Congresses, Representatives were creating lots of bills on many different topics and needed a way to organize them. Temporary committees were created to help the Representatives put the bills into categories. As the United States grew, so did the number of bills being considered, and committees became a permanent way for Representatives to organize their work.
Today, there are 25 committees. Some are responsible for making rules and decisions for the U.S. House of Representatives. Other, temporary committees are created to research specific issues. A standing committee is the most common type of committee. It is responsible for researching and revising bills under consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Once a bill is introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, it is sent to one of the 20 standing committees. Each standing committee covers a different area of public policy, such as agriculture, education, or technology. While in committee, the bill is reviewed, researched, and revised. The committee may hold a hearing to question experts and examine evidence.
If more information is needed, the committee sends the bill to one of its subcommittees. Subcommittees are smaller groups of the committee's members who are experts in a specific part of the committee’s area of public policy. Once the committee members are satisfied with the bill, they vote whether or not to report it to the House floor.
Each Representative, Delegate, and Resident Commissioner serves on two standing committees. Committee assignments are given at the start of each new Congress. Representatives can request to be on specific committees, and returning Representatives usually keep their committee assignments from the previous Congress because they have expertise and seniority. To learn more about what happens at the start of a new Congress, visit First Day of Congress.
Once Representatives have received their committee assignments, they are expected to become experts on the committee’s area of public policy. They also prepare and vote on changes to bills and decide whether or not to report bills to the House floor. Committee members also must write committee reports and studies, which are read by other Members of the U.S. House of Representatives so they can learn more about bills under consideration.