Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Welborn, David M., 1934-||Little, Richard (Professor of political science)||Johnson, William C. (William Carl), 1937-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Political Science


United States. Congress. House


It has been accepted by most authorities that the standing committees of Congress actually write most of the legislation and that the House of Representatives and Senate simply serve as ratifying bodies for the decisions of the standing committees. This study proposed to test the proposition that the House of Representatives merely ratifies the decisions made in committees and proposed to analyze certain characteristics of the committees to determine which are related to the degrees of success committees have in securing enactment of their recommendations. The analysis fell roughly into two parts. First, a comparison was made between the committee reports of the Appropriations, Public Works, and Education and Labor Committees of the House of Representatives during the 88th Congress and the final product as noted upon by the House. Although it was realized that the members of the House would influence the outcome of the committee's deliberations; it was assumed that the bill as it appeared in the committee report represented the best judgment of the committee as to what was substantively desirable and politically feasible. Any change of a substantive nature made after the report was assumed to be the result of the influence of the House or the lack of influence of the standing committee. The second part of the analysis was concerned with the degree of success committees have and the relationship of this success to certain of the major characteristics of the committees. The major characteristics studied included: (1) the seniority standing of the committee members; (2) the degree to which committee members were representative of the House geographically in regard to the sections of the country; (3) the degree to which the committee members were representative of the House geographically in regard to an urban-rural division; (4) the political security of the committee members; (5) the position of the committee members on the question of a larger Federal role; (6) the political orientation of the committee members in terms of their liberalism or conservatism; and (7) the cohesion of committee members in votes on bills that have been reported by the committee in comparison to the votes on the question of a larger Federal role. The analysis of the comparison between committee reports and the final product as acted upon by the House of Representatives bears out the proposition that the standing committees are major determiners of the content of legislation. Twenty-seven of the forty-three bills studied were passed in exactly the same form as reported from committee. Substantive changes were made in fifteen of the bills, and one was not brought to the floor for consideration. The significance of the committee in the legislative process is further indicated by the fact that fourteen of the bills were passed with a minimum of discussion on the floor and without any amendments being offered to them. Although the influence of the committee upon the final outcome of legislation was significant, the House of Representatives did reserve the right to alter or modify legislation that it considered controversial or that introduced a new program for the Federal government. The Appropriations and Public Works Committees were judged to be successful due to their ability to have their reports adopted by the House and due to their success in having substantive amendments to their reports rejected by the House. The Education and Labor Committee was least successful in having both its recommendations accepted outright and in resisting attempts to substantively change the bills it reported. Committees that were judged to be successful were found to possess certain characteristics not possessed by unsuccessful committees. It can be expected that successful committees will possess the following characteristics: (1) Members that have served for a long period of time in the legislature; (2) a membership that is representative of the House geographically, both in sectional representation and in urban-rural representation; (3) members who come from politically safe districts; (4) members who are less committed to an extreme position on controversial issues; (5) members who are less divided on a conservative-liberal basis; and (6) members who are cohesive on the bills they report to the House.


Includes bibliographical references.


x, 120 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type