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U.S. House Committee on Appropriations

From Academic Kids

The Committee on Appropriations, or Appropriations Committee (often referred to as simply "Appropriations", as in "He's on Appropriations") is a committee of the United States House of Representatives. It is in charge of setting the specific expenditures of money by the government of the United States. As such, it is one of the most powerful of the committees, and its members are seen as influential.

Contents

History of the Appropriations Committee

The constitutional basis for the Appropriations Committee comes from Article one, Section nine, Clause seven of the U.S. Constitution, which states that:

No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.

This clearly delegated the power of appropriating money to Congress, but was vague beyond that. Originally, the power of appropriating was taken by the Committee on Ways and Means, but the United States Civil War placed a large burden on the Congress, and at the end of that conflict, a reorganization occurred.

The Committee was created on December 11, 1865, when the House separated the tasks of the Committee on Ways and Means into three parts. The passage of legislation affecting taxes remained with Ways and Means. The power to regulate banking was transferred to the Committee on Banking and Commerce (see List of historical House committees). The power to appropriate money--to control the federal pursestrings--was given to the newly-created Appropriations Committee.

At the time the membership of the committee stood at nine; it currently has 65 members. The power of the committee has only grown since its founding; many of its members and chairmen have gone on to even higher posts. For example, three of them--Samuel Randall (D-PA), Joseph Cannon (R-IL), and Joseph Byrns (D-TN)--have gone on to become the Speaker of the House, and one, James Garfield, has gone on to become President.

The root of the Committee's power is its ability to disburse funds, and thus as the federal budget has risen, so has the Appropriations Committee. The first budget of the U.S., in 1789, was for $639,000--a hefty sum for the time, but a much smaller amount relative to the economy than the federal budget would later become. By the time the Appropriations committee was founded, the Civil War and inflation had raised expenditures to roughly $1.3 billion, increasing the clout of Appropriations. Expenditures continued to follow this pattern--rising sharply during wars before settling down--for over 100 years.

Another important development for Appropriations occurred in the presidency of Warren G. Harding. Harding was the first President to deliver a budget proposal to Congress (see United States budget process).

In the early 1970s, the Appropriations committee faced a crisis. President Richard Nixon began "impounding" funds, not allowing them to be spent, even when Congress had specifically appropriated money for a cause. This was essentially a line-item veto. Numerous court cases were filed by outraged interest groups and Congresspeople. Eventually, the sense that Congress needed to regain control of the budget process led to the adoption of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which finalized the budget process in its current form.

Role of the Appropriations Committee

The Appropriations committee is widely recognized by political scientists as one of the "power committees", since it holds the power of the purse. Openings on the Appropriations committee are often hotly demanded, and are doled out as rewards. Much of the power of the committee comes from the inherent utility of controlling spending.

Since Congress is elected from single-member districts, the status of a member's district is the best indicator as to whether or not he or she will be reelected. One way to achieve popularity in one's district is to bring federal spending, thus creating jobs and raising economic performance. This type of spending is often derided by critics as pork barrel spending, while those who engage in it generally defend it as necessary and appropriate expenditure of government funds. The members of the Appropriations committee can do this better than most, and as such the appointment is regarded as a plum. This help can also be directed towards other members, increasing the stature of committee members in the House and helping them gain support for leadership positions or other honors.

In addition, the ability to appropriate money is useful to lobbyists and interest groups; as such, being on Appropriations makes it easier to collect campaign contributions (see campaign finance).

Current Members

Republicans

Democrats

Subcommittees

Chairmen of the House Committee on Appropriations, 1865-present

See Also

Template:USCongressCommittees

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