The House Committee on Oversight and Reform

What agencies does the committee oversee and why do they do it?
Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and Representative Chrissy Houlahan and labor leaders discuss the paid parental leave provision in the final conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. (Source: AFGE/Creative Commons License)

Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and Representative Chrissy Houlahan and labor leaders discuss the paid parental leave provision in the final conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. (Source: AFGE/Creative Commons License)

What Is The House Oversight Committee?

The United States House Committee on Oversight and Reform, also referred to as the House Oversight Committee, is the main investigative body in the US House of Representatives. The committee can investigate matters within its legislative jurisdiction as well as any issue within the jurisdiction of other standing House committees. Standing House committees are permanent legislative panels. Special House committees, on the other hand, are usually temporary panels created to perform specific functions. With few exceptions, House rules preclude the Oversight Committee from investigating matters assigned to Select Committees.

What Is The Oversight Committee Responsible For?

The committee’s oversight responsibilities are spelled out in four specific clauses attached to House Rule X. The first clause, 2(b) indicates that the committee can review and study the application and effectiveness of laws and programs, as well as those of federal agencies. It can study situations that indicate the necessity for enacting new legislation.

The next clause, 3(i) gives the committee the mandate to review government activities to determine “their economy and efficiency.”

Clause 4(c)(1) affords the committee access to reports of the Comptroller General of the United States and gives the committee the authority to submit recommendations to the full House of Representatives as it deems necessary. Furthermore, the clause requires that the committee evaluate the effects of laws that are meant to reorganize Congress or the executive branch. Finally, the clause instructs the committee to study local, state and federal intergovernmental relationships.

Clause 4(c)(2) gives the committee its investigatory powers. It states that the committee “may at any time conduct investigations of any matter” related to any standing committee, irrespective of jurisdiction.

The Oversight committee’s jurisdiction includes:

  • Federal Civil service
  • Municipal affairs of the District of Columbia
  • Federal paperwork reduction
  • Government management and accounting measures
  • Holidays and celebrations
  • Overall economy
  • National archives
  • Population and demography, including the census
  • Postal service
  • Public information and records
  • Relationship of the federal government to the states and municipalities
  • Reorganizations in the executive branch

Notable Hearings and Investigations:

In 2005, the Committee held hearings on the use of steroids in Major League Baseball. As a result, the Major League Baseball Players Association enacted a zero-tolerance policy for performance-enhancing drugs.

In the same year, the committee reviewed the case of Terri Schiavo concerning the removal of a feeding tube from a woman in a vegetative state. Stalling for time, the committee issued an unenforceable subpoena that demanded that Sciavo appear before the panel. The delay tactic was intended to keep Schiavo on life support while Congress considered legislation affecting her case.

In 2012, the Committee held a hearing about the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employer-provided insurance policies cover birth control. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa insisted that that hearing was "meant to be more broadly about religious freedom and not specifically about the contraception mandate in the Health Reform law."

In 2019, the committee held the "Kids in Cages: Inhumane Treatment at the Border" hearing. The proceedings focused on the "inhumane treatment of children and families" held in detention centers at the southern border.

Who Is The Current Chairman?

Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) is the current chair of the House Oversight Committee. Maloney, a 14 term legislator representing New York’s 12th District, was assigned acting Chairwoman of the committee following the death of chairman Elijah Cummings. Maloney was the second-ranking Democrat on the committee at the time. On November 20, 2019, she became the first woman to lead the committee. She was elected in a caucus-wide, secret ballot. She defeated Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) by a vote of 133-86.

Maloney is also the Vice-Chair of the Committee on Financial Services where she serves as the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship and Capital Markets. Prior to her election to the US House of Representatives Maloney was a New York City Council member for a decade.

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Who Are The Members Of The House Oversight Committee?

Currently, the House Intelligence Committee has 22 members, 13 Democrats and nine Republicans.

Democratic Members

Eleanor Holmes Norton, (D-DC)
Wm. Lacy Clay, (D-MO)
Stephen Lynch, (D-MA)
Jim Cooper, (D-TN)
Gerald Connolly, (D-VA)
Raja Krishnamoorthi, (D-IL)
Jamie Raskin, (D-MD)
Harley Rouda, (D-CA)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, (D-FL)
John Sarbanes, (D-MD)
Peter Welch, (D-VT)
Jackie Speier, (D-CA)
Robin Kelly, (D-IL)
Mark DeSaulnier, (D-CA)
Brenda Lawrence, (D-MI)
Stacey Plaskett, (D-VI)
Ro Khanna, (D-CA)
Jimmy Gomez, (D-CA)
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-NY)
Ayanna Pressley, (D-MA)
Rashida Tlaib, (D-MI)
Katie Porter, (D-CA)
Debra Haaland, (D-NM)

Republican Members

Paul Gosar, (R-AZ)
Virginia Foxx, (R-NC)
Thomas Massie, (R-KY)
Mark Meadows, (R-NC)
Jody Hice, (R-GA)
Glenn Grothman, (R-WI)
James Comer, (R-KY)
Michael Cloud, (R-TX)
Bob Gibbs, (R-OH)
Clay Higgins, (R-LA)
Ralph Norman (R-SC)
Chip Roy, (R-TX)
Carol Miller, (R-WV)
Mark Green, (R-TN)
Kelly Armstrong, (R-ND)
W. Steube, (R-FL)
Fred Keller, (R-PA)

History of the House Oversight Committee

The Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Department was created in 1927 to consolidate 11 separate committees tasked with oversight responsibilities. In 1952, the panel’s name was changed to the Committee on Government Operations. The new name more accurately described the committee's purpose and its jurisdiction, “the operations of Government activities at all levels with a view to determining their economy and efficiency.” In 1995, the Republican majority consolidated the committee's 14 subcommittees into seven. Majority Democrats further consolidated those subcommittees into just five in 2007.

In 1999, the committee also assumed oversight responsibilities for the US Post Office and for the civil service. It was renamed the Committee on Government Reform. In 2007 House Democrats changed the name to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and finally, in 2019 to its current name, the Committee on Oversight and Reform.

The Rantt Rundown

The House Oversight Committee, the primary investigative panel in the US House of Representatives, can review matters within its own jurisdiction or those currently under consideration in any other standing committee. Although the committee is governed by a well-defined set of rules, those requirements are general in nature and the panel has fluid investigatory powers. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney currently chairs the 25 member body, a historic committee initiated nearly a century ago.

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Rantt 101 // Congress