Committee Descriptions

House Committees

House Armed Services Committee – The House Committee on Armed Services oversees issues including national military policy, the war on terror, space programs, missile programs, nuclear warfare strategy, and the organization and management of the Department of Defense. The HASC is able to pass legislation which deals not only with the Department of Defense’s operations but also the annual operating budget of the Department of Energy. Official Website.

House Committee on Education and Labor – The goal of this committee is twofold: to oversee federal programs for students of all levels, and to protect the workforce via initiatives which bolster health care, job training, and retirement security for the labor force. Recently, the No Child Left Behind Act for the education portion and the Fair Labor Standards Act for the workforce aspect have been major pieces of legislation to come through this committee. Official Website.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce – This committee, the oldest in the House of Representatives, oversees a wide variety of issues. Since its inception, the HCEC has passed legislation regarding the protection of air quality, toxic waste site cleanup, healthcare, food and drug safety, development of the telecommunications industry, and fraud protection in the financial sector. Official Website.

House Committee on Government Reform – This committee (its official title in the House is the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) is the main investigative committee House. It has the ability to investigate all federal programs as well as any matter with federal policy implications. This means it has a tremendous scope and a significant amount of power. Official Website.

House Committee on International Relations – The IR committee deals with relations with foreign nations, international economic policy (including importation and exportation rules, foreign loans, and international commodity agreements), protection of Americans abroad, and the United Nations. While the President truly holds the reins in this sphere, the IR committee does a lot to influence his decisions regarding foreign affairs. Official Website.

House Committee on the Judiciary – This committee is involved in the following diverse issues: judiciary and judicial proceedings, civil liberties, criminal law enforcement, constitutional amendments, immigration policy, patents, protection of trade against unlawful restraints and monopolies, and mutiny, espionage, and counterfeiting. Official Website.

House Committee on Science and Technology – The HCST has a fairly broad jurisdiction. It deals with all federal scientific research and development that is not defense-related. This includes programs affiliated with NASA, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA, FEMA, the USGS, and the White House Office of Science and Technology. Official Website.


Senate Committee on Appropriations – This committee’s role is defined by the U.S. Constitution, which requires "appropriations made by law" before any money can be used from the Federal treasury. Therefore, the SCA writes legislation that allows these funds to be used by government agencies and organizations annually. The Appropriations committee also reviews the President’s budget request. The Appropriations committee CANNOT levy taxes. Official Website.

Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – This Senate committee deals with a varied set of issues, including: banks and financial institutions, price control, economic stabilization, control or promotion of exports, management of the Federal Reserve System, money and currency, nursing home construction, urban mass transit and development, and public and private housing issues. Official Website.

Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works – The first half of this committee’s jurisdiction is environmentally concerned; it focuses on issues such as air pollution, environmental effects of toxic substances, fisheries and wildlife, ocean dumping, water pollution and protection, and research and development. The public works half deals with solid waste disposal and recycling, and maintenance of public works like bridges, dams, and public buildings. Official Website.

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations – The Senate FR committee oversees the US government’s foreign policy agencies, such as the State Department the US Agency for International Development, and the Peace Corps. It also reviews and debates all diplomatic nominations, international treaties, and US foreign policy legislation. Official Website.

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions – This committee has an extremely diverse jurisdiction. It deals with issues such as biomedical research and development, arts and humanities, child labor, equal employment opportunities, labor standards, public health, student loans, wages and hours of labor, and individuals with disabilities. Official Website.

Senate Committee on the Judiciary – Similar to the House’s committee on the same issue, the Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary deals with judicial proceedings, civil liberties, federal courts and judges, constitutional amendments, immigration and naturalization, patents, and mutiny, espionage, and counterfeiting. Official Website.

SPECIAL Committees

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence - The HPSCI is charged with the oversight of the United States Intelligence Community, which includes the intelligence and intelligence related activities of 17 elements of the US Government, and the Military Intelligence Program. Oversight includes, but is not limited to, authorizing preemptive responses to foreign security threats from both state and non-state actors, establishing best practices for gathering and use of mass information, and investigating after-action reports. The scope of bills possible for this committee is limited only by your imagination and the country's borders. Official Website

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence - Similarly to the HPSCI, the SSCI was created by the Senate in 1976 to “oversee and make continuing studies of the intelligence activities and programs of the United States Government,” to “submit to the Senate appropriate proposals for legislation and report to the Senate concerning such intelligence activities and programs,” and to “provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.” The Committee writes an annual intelligence authorization bill that authorizes funding levels for intelligence activities (these set caps for agency funding) and provides legislative provisions that limit or allow intelligence conduct.  The Committee also periodically considers stand-alone legislation, including laws governing surveillance of U.S. citizens (such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as “FISA”). Official Website.

House Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship - The House Small Business Committee was established to protect and assist small businesses.  As such, the Committee has jurisdiction over matters related to small business financial aid, regulatory flexibility, and paperwork reduction. Additionally, the House Small Business Committee hasoversight and legislative authority over the Small Business Administration (SBA) and its programs. Official Website.

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs - The Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) is the Senate’s primary oversight committee with broad jurisdiction over government operations generally and the Department of Homeland Security in particular. Its primary responsibilities are to study the efficiency, economy, and effectiveness of all agencies and departments of the federal government; evaluate the effects of laws enacted to reorganize the legislative and executive branches of government; and study the intergovernmental relationships between the U.S. and states and municipalities, and between the U.S. and international organizations of which the U.S. is a member. In addition to governmental affairs, the Committee now oversees and receives legislation, messages, petitions, and memorials on all matters relating to the Department of Homeland Security, except for appropriations, the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration, immigration, customs revenue, commercial operations, and trade. Official Website.

Senate Committee on Ways and Means - Until 1865, the jurisdiction of the committee included the critically important areas of revenue (taxation), appropriations, and banking. Since 1865, the committee has continued to exercise jurisdiction over revenue and related issues such as tariffs, reciprocal trade agreements, and the bonded debt of the United States. Revenue-related aspects of the Social Security system, Medicare, and social services programs have come within Ways and Means’ purview in the 20th century. (Note that while this is actually a House committee, for organizational reasons we have made it a Senate committee at PMC.) Official Website.