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Friday, February 22, 2013

Appropriations Subcommittee Structure: History of Changes from 1920 to 2013

Jessica Tollestrup
Analyst on Congress and the Legislative Process

This report details the evolution of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees’ subcommittee structure from the 1920s to the present. In 1920, the House adopted a change in its rules to consolidate jurisdiction over all appropriations in the Appropriations Committee. After the enactment of the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, the House reorganized its Appropriations Committee by establishing for the first time a set of subcommittees to consider appropriations bills based on the administrative organization of the executive branch. The Senate followed suit in 1922, and the two chambers have continued under that basic organizational approach since that time.

The evolution of the modern Appropriations subcommittee structure can be divided into four eras. The first era, stretching roughly from the initial reorganization in the 1920s until the end of the Second World War, was marked by stability. Most of the changes in Appropriations structure resulted from combining bills (e.g., the Treasury Department bill with the Post Office Department bill beginning in 1924), although one new bill (and subcommittee) was created when the appropriations bill for the Department of Labor was split off from the Departments of State, Justice, Commerce, and Labor bill in 1939.

The second era, from the end of the Second World War through 1970, saw multiple changes. During this period, Congress attempted to keep pace with executive branch reorganization (e.g., creation of subcommittees to consider appropriations for the new Departments of Defense in 1947 and Transportation in 1967), and changing national priorities (e.g., creation of a separate appropriations bill, and later subcommittee, for foreign operations).

The third era, from 1971 through 2003, was marked by a renewed stability. While some appropriations subcommittees were renamed to reflect changes in agency and departmental status, these changes did not represent major shifts in jurisdiction.

In the fourth era, since 2003, there have been major changes in organization involving nearly every subcommittee. In 2003, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees merged their subcommittees on Transportation and Treasury and created a new subcommittee to consider appropriations for the newly created Department of Homeland Security. In 2005, both chambers undertook major reorganizations, eliminating three subcommittees in the House and one in the Senate. This reorganization, however, left the two chambers with differing subcommittee jurisdictions. In 2007 the two Appropriations Committees reorganized again to reestablish parallel subcommittees.

During the first session of the 110
th Congress (2007), the House created the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel of the appropriations committee to oversee spending on federal intelligence activities. This panel was eliminated in 2011, at the beginning of the 112th Congress.

Date of Report: February 5, 2013
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: RL31572
Price: $29.95

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