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What Is the Hill Committee?

The House and Senate convene in the U.S. Capital building.
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  • Written By: Bobby R. Goldsmith
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 10 August 2014
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A Hill committee is a panel of United States legislators gathering on Capitol Hill to convene proceedings on a matter of policy. The committee members may be senators, representatives, or a mix of both. For any of the three types of formal Hill committee, there is a structure and a set of rules that govern how the committee is gathered and how it conducts its business. There are also political party committees that deal with matters on Capitol Hill that involve the election and management of senators and representatives. Political party committees for the legislature play a critical role in the structure of the political party, especially where electoral strategy is concerned.

The US Legislature has three types of Hill committee: the standing committee, the select committee, and and the joint committee. A standing committee operates continuously to handle the legislative tasks under its purview. A select committee gathers either to discuss a one-time issue or to investigate a particular matter. A joint committee can have the tasks of either a standing or a select committee, only it does so as a joint act of Congress, rather than solely as a House or a Senate committee.

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Both the Senate and the House of Representatives operate on a committee structure. The Hill committee is responsible for directing policy initiatives, overseeing various government agencies and organizations, and providing cursory review and approval to bills prior to a vote of all members of either house of Congress. For example, the House Ways and Means committee oversees government expenditures for all branches of government, while the Armed Services committee handles oversight and legislation related to all branches of the United States military. The Commerce committee is responsible for the oversight and legislative tasks associated with the nation's commercial economy, from small businesses and large corporations to the stock market.

For a political party, a Hill committee organizes the political and electoral strategy for all of the party's members in a particular house of Congress. For example, the Democratic Congressional Campaign committee handles a number of tasks for the election and support of Democratic Congressmen. The DCCC recruits potential candidates, handles fundraising, manages strategy, and develops a comprehensive policy message for all candidates in an election. The GOP has an equivalent party committee structure.

Legislative Hill committees have a research, or discovery, phase when considering a bill. Often, a sub-committee, composed of several members of the overall committee, will gather to perform this research and solicit input from experts and various officials. Once a bill passes a sub-committee, the full committee gathers to consider the issue. If the full committee votes to approve a bill, it be voted on by the entire House or Senate. If the committee votes down the bill, it will not be considered again unless the head of the committee deems it necessary.

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