House Committee on Appropriations

Chair: Nita Lowey

A

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]

4 Investigative Oversight Hearings

181 Policy/Legislative Hearings

226 Total Hearings

Last updated: June 30, 2020, 10:17 a.m.

With 53 members, Appropriations is a big committee with big responsibilities—completing 12 major appropriations bills each year for all the government’s discretionary spending, roughly a third of the federal budget. As in the Senate, much of the committee’s work is done by its 12 subcommittees, which are aligned with the Senate’s. They 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. 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. This spending power makes the committee highly sought-after, both for its ability to fund projects in members’ districts and to raise campaign money, and most members sit on no other committees. (By rule, five Appropriations Committee members sit on the House Budget Committee.)

The committee traditionally has one of the more active hearing schedules in the House. A good proportion of them are hearings on legislation and policy, in part because authorization bills, where such issues are normally handled, are difficult to pass in the gridlocked Congress. However, that record took a bit of a dip in the 115th Congress (2017-18) under Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R, N.J.) After averaging 167 hearings in the previous two Congresses, including 148 policy and legislative hearings, hearing activity dropped in the 115th to 128 total hearings and 118 policy and legislative hearings.

The committee historically has conducted little investigative oversight. Chair Frelinghuysen improved a bit on the record of his predecessor Hal Rogers (R, Ky.). After holding no investigative hearings in the 114th Congress (2015-2016) and just one in the 113th, the committee held two in the 115th. In March of 2017, it heard from four inspectors general on management challenges at the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and the Social Security Administration. In May 2017, it held a hearing into alleged cost overruns at the Census Bureau in preparation for the 2020 Census and data security issues.


Chairs

111th Congress: David Obey (D-WI)

112th Congress: Hal Rogers (R-KY)

113th Congress: Hal Rogers (R-KY)

114th Congress: Hal Rogers (R-KY)

115th Congress: Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)

116th Congress: Nita Lowey (D-NY)


Current Congress

We are 87% of the way through the 116th Congress

House Committee on Appropriations

4 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 66% historical maximum
181 Policy/Legislative Hearings; 100% historical maximum
226 Total Hearings; 100% historical maximum

Committee History

Number of Hearings
Committee Hearing Performance
Investigative/Oversight Policy/Legislative Total Hearings Score Grade
111th Congress 0 199 249 100% A
112th Congress 7 171 193 90% A-
113th Congress 1 147 167 72% C
114th Congress 0 148 166 71% C-
115th Congress 2 119 129 59% F
116th Congress* 4 181 226 126% A
Historical average 2.3 160.8 188.3

* 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
House Committee on Appropriations

Date Hearing Title Committee Category