Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 22: 1947-1968

Chapter 22. Records of the Select Committees of the House of Representatives

Table of Contents

Records of the Select Committees of the House of Representatives (1789-1988) from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, 1789-1988

Committee records described in this chapter:
Records of House Select Committees, 80th-90th Congresses (1947-1968)

22.131 The practice of establishing select committees to investigate specific issues of particular concern met with strong opposition during consideration of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (S. 2177, 79th Cong.). The original version of the bill that reached the House of Representatives after passage by the Senate stated, in section 126: "No bill or resolution, and no amendment to any bill or resolution, to establish or to continue a special or select committee, including a joint committee, shall be received or considered in either the Senate or the House of Representatives." Critics of select committees argued that if the Legislative Reorganization Act clarified jurisdictional boundaries among the various standing committees, there would be little likelihood that an issue of critical concern would not fit clearly within the jurisdiction of a standing committee. If clear and comprehensive jurisdictional assignments covered every conceivable subject of legislative concern, continual oversight of Federal agencies by the standing committees could be provided rather than sporadic monitoring by the select committees. The result would be less duplication of effort and a generally more efficient Congress.

22.132 The House of Representatives was not ready to relinquish the practice of establishing select committees; that Chamber sent the Legislative Reorganization Act back to the Senate without the section prohibiting select and special committees. When the act was eventually signed as Public Law 79-601, the House version had prevailed on this issue.

22.133 Nevertheless, as the 80th Congress began, the attitude toward select or special committees was not entirely positive. The standing committees jealously guarded their carefully delineated jurisdictional prerogatives, and a number of proposals to establish new select committees encountered formidable resistance. Ironically, however, some of the select committees that were established owed their existence to the jurisdictional fragmentation among standing committees. In such cases, a subject that cut across jurisdictional lines, such as foreign aid, might be assigned to a select committee drawing members from the various standing committees with jurisdictional claims to the subject.

22.134 In this section, as in the previous one, the records of each select or special committee are described separately and arranged in order of the date of establishment of the committee, with one exception: all records of the various committees on campaign expenditures, though filed as separate units and dating from 1928 to 1964, are described collectively at the end of the section.

Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States House of Representatives at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-245). By Charles E. Schamel, Mary Rephlo, Rodney Ross, David Kepley, Robert W. Coren, and James Gregory Bradsher. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.