Congressional Oversight: An Overview

Oversight Powers of Congress
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Underlying the legislature's ability to oversee the executive are democratic principles as well as practical purposes. Oversight, as an outgrowth of this principle, ideally serves a number of overlapping objectives and purposes:. Although the U.

The New Congress and Congressional Oversight

The authority to oversee derives from these constitutional powers. Congress could not carry them out reasonably or responsibly without knowing what the executive is doing; how programs are being administered, by whom, and at what cost; and whether officials are obeying the law and complying with legislative intent.

Besides these general powers, numerous statutes direct the executive to furnish information to or consult with Congress. In fact, more than 2, reports are submitted each year to Congress by federal departments, agencies, commissions, bureaus, and offices. Inspectors General IGs , for instance, report their findings about waste, fraud, and abuse, and their recommendations for corrective action, periodically to the agency head and Congress.

The IGs are also instructed to issue special reports concerning particularly serious problems immediately to the agency head, who transmits them unaltered to Congress within seven days.

The Reports Consolidation Act of P. This new requirement is to be part of a larger effort by individual agencies to consolidate their numerous reports on financial and performance management matters into a single annual report. The aim is to enhance coordination and efficiency within the agencies; improve the quality of relevant information; and provide it in a more meaningful and useful format for Congress, the President, and the public.

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In addition, Congress creates commissions and establishes task forces to study and make recommendations for select policy areas that can also involve examination of executive operations and organizations. There is a long history behind executive reports to Congress. House and Senate Rules Chamber rules also reinforce the oversight function.

In addition, House rules direct each standing committee to require its subcommittees to conduct oversight or to establish an oversight subcommittee for this purpose. House rules also call for each committee to submit an oversight agenda, listing its prospective oversight topics for the ensuing Congress, to the House Committee on Government Reform, which compiles and prints the agendas.

The House Government Reform Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which have oversight jurisdiction over virtually the entire federal government, furthermore, are authorized to review and study the operation of government activities to determine their economy and efficiency and to submit recommendations based on GAO reports. In addition, House rules require that the findings and recommendations from the Government Reform Committee be considered by authorizing panels, if presented to them in a timely fashion.

Oversight occurs through a wide variety of congressional activities and avenues.

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Some of the most publicized are the comparatively rare investigations by select committees into major scandals or into executive branch operations gone awry. The precedent for this kind of oversight goes back two centuries: in , a special House committee investigated the defeat of an Army force by confederated Indian tribes. By comparison to these select panel investigations, other congressional inquiries in recent Congresses—into the Whitewater controversy , access to Federal Bureau of Investigation files, White House Travel Office firings, and campaign financing—have relied upon standing committees.

The impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton in in the House and in in the Senate also generated considerable oversight. The oversight not only encompassed the President and the White House staff, but also extended to the office of independent counsel, specifically its authority, jurisdiction, and expenditures. More routine and regular review, monitoring, and supervision occur in other congressional activities and contexts.

Especially important are appropriations hearings on agency budgets as well as authorization hearings for existing programs. Separately, examinations of executive operations and the implementation of programs—by congressional staff, support agencies, and specially created commissions and task forces—provide additional oversight. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Oversight Powers of Congress

Senior Specialist in American National Government. Identifier Unique identifying numbers for this report in the Digital Library or other systems. Most states have some form of an thics committee, which offer an important way for legislatures to solidify their credibility with the public. May 20, by Evelyn Aswad. Authority for the U.

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October Learn how and when to remove this template message. Congressional Oversight. Retrieved 2 November Daugherty, U. United States, U. November 9, Retrieved 17 December United States Congress.