Public Law 60-812
Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946
The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 made substantial organizational changes to Congress, though still the ultimate impact was less dramatic than initially intended. In passing the Act, Congress was attempting to stop and reclaim the power it had lost to the President. From the depression through World War II, the Executive Branch had expanded its influence, prestige and effect on government policy at the expense of Congress.
This Act was designed to enhance legislative oversight of federal agencies, attempt to regain its diminished role shaping national policy. The law considerably reduce the number of House and Senate standing committees, though it also saw a proliferation of subcommittees after it was enacted.
The Act had a substantial impact in increasing the number of Congressional staff working on Capitol Hill. It also expanded the resources for the Legislative Reference Service (the predecessor of the Congressional Research Service).
Public Law: Pub. L. 79-601
Stat. At Large: 60 Stat. 812
Enacted: August 2, 1946
Bill Number: S. 21771 (79th Congress)
Sponsor: Sen. Robert M. La Follette Jr.
Note: This law made numerous of changes to Congressional organization, but perhaps the most important budgetary aspect was its creation of a “legislative budget” for the first time.
Applicable Text of Statute
The LRA 1946 made a number important organizational changes to the Congressional system, but perhaps the most important from the a Congressional budget standpoint is the establishment of a “Legislative Budget”.
Legislative Text Establishing A “Legislative Budget” in the Legislative Reorganization Act 1946
Sec. 138. (a) The Committee on Ways and Means and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Finance and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate, or duly authorized subcommittees thereof, are authorized and directed to meet jointly at the beginning of each regular session of Congress and after study and consultation, giving due consideration to the budget recommendations of the President, report to their respective Houses a legislative budget for the ensuing fiscal year, including the estimated over-all Federal receipts and expenditures for such year. Such report shall contain a recommendation for the Recommendations . maximum amount to be appropriated for expenditure in such year which shall include such an amount to be reserved for deficiencies as may be deemed necessary by such committees. If the estimated receipts exceed the estimated expenditures, such report shall contain a recommendation for a reduction in the public debt . Such report shall be made by February 15 .
(b) The report shall be accompanied by a concurrent resolution adopting such budget, and fixing the maximum amount to be appropriated for expenditure in such year. If the estimated expenditures exceed the estimated receipts, the concurrent resolution shall include a section substantially as follows: “That it is the sense of the Congress that the public debt shall be increased in an amount equal to the amount by which the estimated expenditures for the ensuing fiscal year exceed the estimated receipts, such amount being $____.”
The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946
Derived from Information from the National Archives:
President Harry S. Truman signed the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 into law August 2, 1946. Drafted by the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress and spearheaded by Senator Robert M. La Follette Jr. of Wisconsin and Representative Almer Monroney of Oklahoma, the legislation streamlined the sprawling, complex committee system and the cumbersome appropriations process.
Representative Monroney observed that the congressional workload had “increased by geometric proportions in recent years and we must modernize our machinery to handle it.” When the legislation went into effect at the start of the 80th Congress (1947–1949), the reforms reduced the number of House committees from 48 to 19 and the number of Senate committees from 33 to 15.
The legislation included a congressional pay raise, free education for House and Senate Pages, and the expansion of the Legislative Reference Service (later known as the Congressional Research Service). Committee centralization created a new subcommittee structure which, over time, steadily increased the number of professional staff members working in the House.
Final Report of the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress (December 1993)
The following is an excerpt from the Final Report on the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, published in December 1993:
The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946
The initial congressional response to the changing environment of the 1930s was to defer to presidential leadership; vast delegations of authority were made to the executive agencies. Yet when the country became fully engaged in World War II and a massive government apparatus was put in place, the Congress began to rethink this executive deference, and question its future place in the constitutional scheme. As California Democrat Jerry Voorhis asserted in 1942, “I believe Congress must realize that only Congress can restore Congress to its proper place.” 7 At the same time, a chorus of criticism of the Congress by scholars, reporters, commentators, and Members themselves arose. The critics saw a tradition-bound institution incapable of governing in the second half of the 20th century.
These external and internal pressures caused Congress to take an introspective look at itself. A host of reform proposals were introduced; ultimately the Congress passed legislation that established in 1945 the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. Subsequently, the Congress enacted the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, which is widely regarded as the blueprint of the contemporary Congress. The most far-reaching organizational restructuring since the First Congress, the Act systematized and reorganized the committee system in the House and Senate, as well as increased congressional access to technical information, increased staffing (including authorizing, for the first time, permanent professional and clerical staff for all standing committees), removed certain categories of activities from the workload of Congress, improved control over the budget, increased Members’ pay, and required lobbyists to register with the House and Senate. The massive institutional changes wrought by the 1946 Act heralded the modern era of Congress.
The 1946 Act was the first, and still the most ambitious, effort to restructure the standing committee system. Since the origin of the system, committees were established, dissolved, or consolidated in a nonsystematic fashion, and were retained long after their need. The 1946 Act changed this haphazard system into a simple, rational design; in this transformational process, the number of standing committees in the House decreased from 48 to 19, and in the Senate they likewise decreased from 33 to 15. Jurisdictions were for the first time codified and made part of Chamber rules. Committees were eliminated, others were consolidated, and jurisdictional conflicts were minimized.
However, an unintended consequence of the 1946 Act with profound ramifications was the proliferation of subcommittees. While the Act had established a set number of committees, it did not limit the number of subcommittees that could be created. Another of the Act’s features — equalizing and stabilizing committee sizes — proved to be an easy target for alteration; prior to electing Members to committees at the outset of a Congress, the House often adopted a resolution to amend the committee sizes listed in the rules. Other unforeseen outcomes can be summarized as follows: “by reducing the number of standing committees and hardening their jurisdictional lines, the act tended to strengthen the seniority system, reinforce committee autonomy, and inhibit the ability of the two Chambers to recast its work groups in response to new configurations of public problems.” 8
Footnote #8 from Report: 8 Roger Davidson, “The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946,” (Legislative Studies Quarterly, XV, Aug., 1990), p. 367.
The Operation of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946
George B. Galloway
VII. Strengthening Fiscal Controls
One of the major aims of the Act was to strengthen the congressional power of the purse. To this end, the Act provided for a legislative budget (section 138), development of a standard appropriation classification schedule (section 139b), studies by the Comptroller General of restrictions in the appropriation acts (section 205), expenditure analyses by the Comptroller General (section 206), studies by both Appropriations committees of permanent appropriations and of the disposition of funds resulting from the sale of Government property or services (section 139d), and expansion of the staffs of the committees on Appropriations (section 202b).
In practice, many of the fiscal reforms embodied in the Act have been virtually ignored or have failed to work. Attempts to carry out the legislative budget provision during 1947-49 proved abortive; in 1950 this section was ignored and it now appears to be a dead letter. In congressional circles the aim of the legislative budget is generally regarded as laudable, but experience with it seems to have shown that the instrument is not properly suited to its task. Its failure to date is attributed to the shortness of time allowed for the job, the unwieldy size of the Joint Budget Committee, inadequate staffing, improper adjustment to the appropriation process, resistance within Congress to ceilings on appropriations for favorite agencies, current Federal accounting practices, and external spending pressures on the legislature. However, there is strong sentiment in Congress for further trial of the legislative budget idea, and measures have been introduced to amend section 138 of the Act with a view to overcoming the difficulties mentioned above.
George B. Galloway, The Operation of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 45, No. 1, (Mar., 1951), pp. 62-63
Links to Statute at Large (60 Stat. 812)
 S. 380 (79th Congress) was reported by the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive and was renamed the “Employment-Production Act, 1945”.