Senate Committee on Appropriations

Chair: Richard Shelby

D

Projected Grade for the 116th Congress*

* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 [oversight-index.thelugarcenter.org/covid-19-statement]

0 Investigative Oversight Hearings

68 Policy/Legislative Hearings

69 Total Hearings

Last updated: Oct. 9, 2020, 7:36 p.m.

With 31 members, the committee is the largest in the Senate. It is responsible every year for allocating more than $1 trillion in discretionary spending for the entire government. Much of the committee’s work is done by its 12 subcommittees, which have their own staffs and offices. Some subcommittees are responsible for funding a single large agency, such as the Defense subcommittee, while others fund multiple agencies and departments, such as the subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. Each year the committee is expected to produce 12 appropriations bills, plus frequent supplemental spending bills. If the regular appropriations bills aren’t signed by Oct. 1 each year, the committee is responsible for drafting continuing resolutions to fund the government until the individual bills are approved. The committee has considerable discretion to allocate greater or less money to various programs than requested in the president’s annual budget or than is called for in the authorizing legislation. It is thus considered one of the most powerful committees in Congress.

Over the years, the committee, including its subcommittees, has maintained a robust hearing schedule, generally bigger than the average Senate committee that does not have large nomination responsibilities. (The Appropriations committee has none.) In the 115th Congress (2017-18), under chairmen Thad Cochran (R, Miss.), who resigned from the Senate for health reasons as of April 2018, and his successor Richard Shelby (R, Ala.), the committee and its subcommittees held 106 hearings, the lowest figure for the period.

Because it reviews the budgets of nearly every federal agency every year, the bulk of the committee’s hearings are for legislative and policy oversight. In the 112th Congress (2011-12) for instance, all but nine of the committee’s 128 hearings were for policy and legislative oversight. In the 115th Congress, the committee held 92 policy and legislative oversight hearings, also the committee's lowest figure for the 10-year period.

Over the 10-year period, the committee held only a handful of investigative oversight hearings, fewer than many other Senate committees. It held one in the 115th Congress, by the transportation subcommittee, looking into allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.


Chairs

111th Congress: Daniel Inouye (D-HI)

112th Congress: Daniel Inouye (D-HI) [Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)]

113th Congress: Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

114th Congress: Thad Cochran (R-MS)

115th Congress: Thad Cochran (R-MS)

116th Congress: Richard Shelby (R-AL)


Current Congress

We are 99% of the way through the 116th Congress

Senate Committee on Appropriations

0 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 0% historical maximum
68 Policy/Legislative Hearings; 69% historical maximum
69 Total Hearings; 65% historical maximum

Committee History

Number of Hearings
Committee Hearing Performance
Investigative/Oversight Policy/Legislative Total Hearings Score Grade
111th Congress 4 99 121 91% A-
112th Congress 2 119 128 100% A
113th Congress 2 95 107 82% B
114th Congress 1 114 125 95% A
115th Congress 1 92 105 78% C+
116th Congress* 0 68 69 66% D
Historical average 1.7 97.8 109.2

* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 [oversight-index.thelugarcenter.org/covid-19-statement]

Number of Hearings

--- Historical Average

Hearings held by the
Senate Committee on Appropriations

Date Hearing Title Committee Category