The Developments of Congressional Investigative Power

By M. Nelson McGeary | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
PROCEDURE

BOTH the immediate and ultimate aims of inquiries are widely diversified. The objectives of the investigators go far toward determining the values finally derived. But good intentions are not enough. Regardless of the ends sought, the procedure usually remains a fundamental determinant of an investigation's general success or failure. Careless procedure may nullify noble purpose.

Because the procedure is controlled by the personnel of a committee, consideration must be given to the appointing power. Courtesy in both houses suggests that the sponsor of an inquiry should become the chairman of the investigating group. When the inquiry is made by a standing committee, this generally means the appointment, by the chairman, of a subcommittee headed and steered by the introducer of the resolution. 1 Likewise, the choice for the chairmanship of a select committee is normally a foregone conclusion. The other members usually are chosen following consultations between the Vice-President or Speaker and the Majority and Minority Leaders. Occasionally, however, the appointing officer may fail to confer with the leaders. The selection of the joint committee for inquiring into the Tennessee Valley Authority apparently provides an example of Vice-Presidential refusal to be shackled by the consultative custom. Prior to the enactment of the resolution, 2 heated debate centered on the merits and demerits of the Authority and its work. Senator Bridges, the sponsor

____________________
1
Only rarely does a Senator or Representative sponsor an investigation by a standing committee to which he does not belong. An exception was Senator Hiram Johnson's resolution directing an investigation by the Finance Committee of the sales of foreign securities in the United States (S. Res. 19, 72d Cong., Ist Sess., December 10, 1931). Although not a member of the committee, Senator Johnson participated in the hearings. Investigating committees, on occasion, invite interested members of Congress to attend hearings.
2
52 Stat. 154, April 4, 1938.

-50-

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