House Practice: Select Committees
U.S. House of Representatives
A Guide to the Rules, Precedents, and Procedures of the House
115th Congress, 1st Session
§ 12. Select Committees
Select (or special) committees were used extensively by the House during the early Congresses. In the Jeffersonian era, it was common practice to refer each proposal to a select committee created to draft the appropriate legislative language for the measure. Manual Sec. 401. By the Third Congress, 350 select committees had been named. However, as standing committees came to be recognized as the most appropriate forum for the development of legislation, the use of select committees declined steadily. By the 23d Congress, the number of select committees had been reduced to 35. By the 106th Congress, only the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence remained. Clause 11 of rule X. A select committee identified as permanent is reconstituted in each Congress upon adoption of the rules of the House. Select committees have been established with oversight jurisdiction only (for example, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming).
In the modern era, select committees are created primarily to investigate conditions or events. As pointed out elsewhere, all committee investigations must be undertaken in furtherance of a constitutionally assigned function of Congress. Deschler Ch 15 Sec. 1; see Sec. 10, supra.
Select committees have also been created to study and report on matters with a view toward legislative action. Most select committees of this type lacked authority to report legislation. Instead, they were directed to assess the adequacy of existing laws and, if necessary, to make legislative recommendations. However, several select committees have been empowered to report legislation directly to the House. Deschler Ch 17 Sec. 6. For example, the Select Committee on Homeland Security was required to report to the House its recommendations on a bill establishing a Department of Homeland Security. In making its recommendation, the select committee was required to take into consideration recommendations by each committee to which such bill was initially referred. 107-2, H. Res. 449, June 19, 2002, p 10722. In the 108th Congress, the House established a successor to the Select Committee on Homeland Security, granting it jurisdiction over matters relating to the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (the law enacted on the recommendation of the predecessor select committee). For further discussion on the establishment of select committees, see Guidelines for the Establishment of Select Committees, Committee on Rules, 98-1, February, 1983.
Finally, select committees have been created to supervise certain routine housekeeping functions; for example, the Select Committee on the House Beauty Shop (95-1, H. Res. 1000), the Select Committee on the House Recording Studio (Pub. L. No. 84-624), the Select Committee on the House Restaurant (95-1, H. Res. 472), and the Select Committee to Regulate Parking on the House Side of the Capitol (95-1, H. Res. 282).
House Practice, A Guide to the Rules, Precedents, and Procedures of the House of Representatives (Washington, DC: GPO, 2017), pp. 261-262.