What Are the Duties of Congressional Committee Members?

The members of congressional committees handle specific legislative and oversight duties, in order to develop specialized knowledge of the matters they have jurisdiction upon. These include gathering information, comparing and evaluating legislative alternatives, selecting and reporting measures for full chamber consideration, investigating accusations of wrongdoing, identifying policy problems and proposing solutions.

There are three main types of congressional committees: standing committees, select or special committees and joint committees. Standing committees are permanent and they have legislative jurisdiction. Their members consider bills and issues to recommend to the chambers and have oversight responsibilities as well. Select or special committees are established occasionally to conduct various investigations and studies. They may be temporary or permanent. Joint congressional committees include members from both chambers and typically perform housekeeping tasks instead of considering measures. Other types of congressional committees include subcommittees, which share specific tasks with full committees, conference committees, which are ad hoc groups, and the Committee of the Whole, which is only used by the House of Representatives. As of 2015, there are 21 permanent committees both in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. The number of members varies from one committee to another, with the committees in the House of Representative generally being larger.