Saturday, December 24, 2022

CRS Reports – Congressional Oversight

This week the Congressional Research Service (CRS) updated their report: “Congressional Oversight Manual”. This Manual provides information for the incoming Congress Members and their staffs (mainly the staffs, since they do the real work) on the congressional responsibilities related to the oversight of the Executive Branch’s implementation of legislative requirements.

According to the introduction (pg 2):

“A fundamental objective of the Congressional Oversight Manual is to assist Members, committees, and legislative staff in carrying out this vital legislative function. It is intended to provide a broad overview of the procedural, legal, and practical issues that are likely to arise as Congress conducts oversight. This includes information on the mechanics of oversight practice based on House and Senate rules, common investigative techniques, and an inventory of statutes that impact oversight activity. In addition, the Manual discusses important legal principles that have developed around Congress’s oversight practice. The Manual is organized both to address specific questions and to support those seeking a general introduction to or broader understanding of oversight practice.”

There is an interesting discussion about identifying relevant committee jurisdiction for oversight. It notes that:

“The committee jurisdictional statements in House Rule X and Senate Rule XXV specify the subjects that fall within each committee’s jurisdiction. In general, the rules do not address specific departments, agencies, programs, or laws but are stated in broad subject terms. Therefore, multiple committees may exercise some jurisdiction— especially in regard to oversight—over the same departments and agencies or over different elements of the same agency activities.”

While this can sometimes lead to holes in oversight, it more frequently means that federal agencies have to keep multiple committees up to date on their operations with nearly duplicative reports.

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