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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Types of Committee Hearings

Valerie Heitshusen
Analyst on Congress and the Legislative Process

Congressional committee hearings may be broadly classified into four types: legislative, oversight, investigative, and confirmation. Hearings may be held on Capitol Hill or elsewhere (e.g., a committee member’s district or state, or a site related to the subject of the hearing). These latter hearings are often referred to as field hearings.1

All hearings have a similar formal purpose: to gather information for use by the committee in its activities. This information often is used to shape legislation, even when the hearing is not specifically a legislative hearing. All four types of hearings share common characteristics. The differences among them may appear indistinct, and their purposes sometimes overlap. For example, investigative hearings are sometimes seen as a type of oversight or may lead to legislation, and legislative hearings on a bill might also provide oversight opportunities.

A single set of rules in each chamber governs the different kinds of hearings (Senate Rule XXVI and House Rule X, particularly clauses 2 and 3, and Rule XI, particularly clauses 2, 4, and 5).2 For example, House and Senate rules set conditions and procedures for closing any hearing to the public and press, all of which must otherwise remain open.3 Some other chamber rules, however, are more pertinent to certain kinds of hearings than to others. Within these rules, a chair has broad latitude in the organization and conduct of hearings.

Date of Report: August 12, 2013
Number of Pages: 4
Order Number: 98-317
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