Chair: Dick Durbin
Grade for the 117th Congress
3 Investigative Oversight Hearings
22 Policy/Legislative Hearings
118 Total HearingsLast updated: Nov. 8, 2023, 9:16 p.m.
The committee’s seemingly narrow jurisdiction—primarily the Justice Department, the FBI and the DEA—and its relatively limited spending capabilities belie “its primary role as a forum for the public discussion of social and constitutional issues,” as the committee says on its website. Many of the nation’s most contentious topics, such as immigration, abortion, gun rights, religious rights, criminal justice and antitrust, come before the committee. It must approve the nominations of all federal judges, including the Supreme Court, another frequent source of contention. It tends to attract Senators with strong ideological views on both sides. In part because of its heavy nomination load, the committee has traditionally been one of the most active in the Senate. It has six subcommittees: antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights; border security and immigration; the Constitution; crime and terrorism; intellectual property; oversight, agency action, federal rights and federal courts.
The committee’s hearing activity has slowed during the 12-year period. From a high of 145 hearings in the 111th Congress (2009-10) it dropped to just 104 in the 116th Congress (2019-20) under Chair Lindsey Graham (R, S.C.). That was a bit of an decline from the previous Congress under Chair Grassley, but on par with average when the abridged schedule due to Covid-19 is taken into consideration.
There was a steady decline in policy and legislative oversight hearings throughout the 12-year period. From a high of 55 policy and legislative hearings in the 111th Congress, the committee under Chair Graham held only 20 in the 116th Congress, the lowest in the period.
The committee also saw a decline in investigative oversight hearings under Chair Graham, with only 7 investigative oversight hearings, compared to 10 in the 115th Congress (2017-18) and 22 in the 114th (2015-16). Among the topics of investigation during the 116th Congress were the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane investigation, Russian interference in the 2016 election, and family separation policies at the U.S.-Mexico border. Though impeachment hearings would be under the committee's jurisdiction, the committee decided not to hold any oversight hearings on this matter before the Senate voted on impeachment in February 2020.
111th Congress: Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
112th Congress: Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
113th Congress: Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
114th Congress: Chuck Grassley (R-SC)
115th Congress: Chuck Grassley (R-SC)
116th Congress: Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
117th Congress: Dick Durbin (D-IL)
We are 100% of the way through the 117th Congress
Senate Committee on Judiciary3 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 14% historical maximum
Number of Hearings
Committee Hearing Performance
* 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]