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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

House Committee Party Ratios: 98th-113th Congresses

Matthew Eric Glassman
Analyst on the Congress

The party ratio in a House of Representatives standing committee refers to the proportional number of members of each party caucus assigned to each committee. Determining sizes, ratios, and committee assignments are among the first actions taken following a general election and at the beginning of a Congress.

The Standing Rules of the House of Representatives are silent regarding committee sizes and party ratios; the apportionment of committee seats is a decision of the majority leadership that may include discussions between majority and minority party leaderships. Historically, the number of majority seats on many committees has exceeded, in varying degrees, the strength of the majority party in the House chamber, regardless of which party has been in power. In instances of close party division in the House chamber, the majority party has generally ensured that it has a majority sufficient to control voting in committees. The exception has been the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, for which House Rules guarantee an equal share of the seats to the two parties. While individual committees’ ratios may vary substantially from the proportional number of majority and minority Members of the House, the aggregate number of seats better reflects the proportion in the chamber itself, while still favoring the majority party.

This report shows House committee party ratios for 16 Congresses, covering the period from the 98
th Congress (1983-1985) through the beginning of the 113th Congress (2013-2015). 

Table 1
shows a comparison of majority party strength in the House chamber with total majority committee seats for the 98
th Congress through the beginning of the 113th Congress. Unfilled seats on committees (if so noted in the Clerk’s lists) are counted in individual and overall committee totals for consistency. 

Tables 2-16
show for each of the 16 Congresses examined, by majority, minority, and Independents (where present):

  • House party breakdown and majority margin; 
  • total committee seats, majority and minority committee seats, and majority margin; 
  • the standing and select committees (with legislative jurisdiction) as established and named in each Congress; 
  • committee seats allocated to the majority and minority parties, including Independents (where present), for each committee; and 
  • majority-minority seat margin for each committee. 

Committee ratios data for this report are from the earliest available editions of the official committee lists for each Congress issued by the Clerk of the House. Later versions of the Clerk’s lists, or the use of alternate sources or methodologies, may yield different results. Independent Members are listed separately, consistent with the Clerk’s committee lists. For each Congress, the total party division numbers reflect party strength after the November elections; they do not reflect changes due to deaths or resignations followed by special elections, or changes in party affiliation after the beginning of the Congress. Tables for each Congress include the standing committees and a permanent select committee as established and named in each Congress.

Date of Report: May 7, 2013
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: R40478
Price: $29.95

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