Committee Assignments in the U.S. House of Representatives: A Public Choice Perspective

Jill Jenkins

Enterprise Hall, 318
April 20, 2004, 08:00 PM to 07:00 PM


This dissertation considers the standing committee assignment system in the House of Representative both theoretically and empirically. The first section traces the development of the committee system, focusing primarily upon the standing committees. The discussion contains overviews of the various reforms Congress and the committee system have undergone since their inception, including the Revolution of 1910 and the reforms of the 1970s. The committee assignment process and assignment criteria for both the Democrat and the Republican parties are also discussed in their historical context, as is the importance of House and committee seniority. Special consideration is given to illustrating the standing committees and their relative importance in the House. The second section considers the various leadership roles in the House and their historical impact on committees and the committee assignment process. This includes such visible figures as the Speaker and Floor Leader, as well as leaders among the standing committees and such important groups as the party caucuses and the Committees on Committees. A cyclical pattern of power emerges that is an important factor to consider when analyzing House data. The empirical portion of this dissertation places particular emphasis on the role party/voting loyalty plays in the committee assignment process for the period 1965-1998. The assignment of members to the budget committee is considered separately, as are returning members. This paper also examines the fate of members who are removed from committees due to a reversal of party fortunes. For the final period considered, an attempt is made to determine the likely committee assignments of members based on the preceding empirical results. This dissertation provides an excellent reference for readers interested in the history of the House, especially those curious about the standing committee system. It also makes a unique contribution to the committee assignment literature, in part by focusing on each Congress separately.