The Role of Congress in Regulating the Executive Branch

Gambling Jul 22, 2021


The Role of Congress in Regulating the Executive Branch

The United States Congress is both a bicameral and an elected body of government with powers derived from the United States Constitution and statutory law. Congress generally meets in session two times each year, once in the spring session and once in the fall. Congress generally convenes in both chambers once every calendar year. The Presidents’ Message of Intent are delivered to the Congress in January and July, respectively.

Congress also has concurrent legislative power over many executive branch agencies and cabinet departments. Congress provides spending authority for the executive branch through legislation. The congressional oversight committees can request reports and other documentation concerning the performance and costs of executive branch agencies. The courts appoint senior judges to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Supreme Court, Federal Trade Commission, and other courts. Congress authorizes federal agencies to prescribe rules and regulations governing health, education, workplace safety, consumer protection, tax, and other areas.

Congressional committees are usually made up of both Democrats and Republicans and there are 12 committees in each chamber of Congress. All committees need to report one report to the speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate at the end of each legislative session. Most committees are required to study and report extensively each bill that is presented to them for consideration. In all cases committees cannot hold hearings or mark up articles of legislation without first presenting such to the appropriate committees.

Congressional committees have certain lines of jurisdiction and are generally divided into four main categories: oversight, legislative management, policy making, and agency accountability and spending. Oftentimes oversight is exercised by committees of both parties since some committees often represent many different districts or states. Policy making involves the committees of both Houses and can be further divided between Labor, Republican, and Independent groups. Agency accountability deals with the activities of agencies within the House and Senate and includes oversight of agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, Office of Management and Budget, and other agencies of government that exercise delegated authority. Since these are all important functions, it is crucial that members of Congress remain apprised of such activities in order to provide proper oversight.

One function of both Houses of Congress is holding hearings and mark up bills. These are referred to as judicial review of bills before they are voted on by the respective Houses. Judicial review is not a part of the legislative process itself, but rather a separate function that is exercised by various committees of Congress. There are also special committees of Congress that deal exclusively with certain budgetary, economic, or foreign-policy issues.

Since there are no restrictions on the frequency of Congress holding hearings and voting on bills, many members are able to become very well versed in the various issues that come up regarding their home state, sector, industry, or religion. This familiarity and comfort with local issues make members more likely to take a positive view on legislation coming from the executive branch. For example, members of Congress from rural areas are more likely to support a federal farm bill if they have lived in or are from a state that is highly dependent upon farming. Similarly, members of Congress who belong to districts that have a high Hispanic presence are more apt to support measures beneficial to the Hispanic community.

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