Government without Passing Laws: Congress' Nonstatutory Techniques for Appropriations Control

By Michael W. Kirst | Go to book overview

V.Dangers of Nonstatutory Oversight Techniques

While the "proper" role of the appropriations committee includes control of substantive policy, it does not include the responsibility of the legislative committee to propose new legislation and change existing authority.1 Indeed, the use of nonstatutory devices to circumvent a point of order would not be such an objectionable practice if it were not so effective.2 Administrators believe the appropriations committee "can hurt them more" than the legislative committee can and that the appropriations committee is more likely to resort to sanctions.

Nonstatutory language that changes existing legislative authority often does not go unnoticed by the legislative committee. On several occasions, legislative committee members have bitterly objected to such language.3

____________________
1
The other important method is a waiver of points of order by the Rules Committee. For a discussion of this method see James A. Robinson , The House Rules Committee ( Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1964).
2
The proper roles for the appropriations and legislative committees with respect to new legislation and modification of existing authority will be analyzed in the concluding chapter.
3
99 Congressional Record 7354 ( 1953). In 1960 a strong protest against legislation in an appropriations act was made by Representative Cooley (D.-N.C.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. His outburst was caused by a statutory proviso that prohibited the CCC from reclassing cotton after the time of sale.

REP. COOLEY: When did you (the House Appropriations Committee) start writing the checks? You are supposed to carry out the intent and purpose of the legislative committee of the Congress.

...Since when did the Appropriations Committee arrogate to itself such mighty power as to say that Congress authorizes an act but we will cut it off, notwithstanding the views, the unanimous views of all the Committees on Agriculture.... Who is going to run the Department of Agriculture? The Subcommittee on appropriations or the legislative committees of this Congress, and the Members of Congress themselves? If we yield to this limitation, then we have our only forum thereafter in the star chamber sessions of the Committee on Appropriations. You cannot even get into that room without special permission. (106 Congressional Record 10039, L960)

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