Senate Committee on Judiciary

Chair: Lindsey Graham

C-

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]

7 Investigative Oversight Hearings

19 Policy/Legislative Hearings

99 Total Hearings

Last updated: Oct. 24, 2020, 8:14 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 10-year period. From a high of 145 hearings in the 111th Congress (2009-10) it dropped to just 109 in the 115th Congress (2017-18) under Chair Chuck Grassley (R, Iowa). That was a bit of an uptick from the previous Congress under Chair Grassley.

There was a steady decline in policy and legislative oversight hearings throughout the 10-year period. From a high of 55 policy and legislative hearings in the 111th Congress, the committee under Chair Grassley held only 34 in the 115th Congress, tied with the 114th Congress (2015-16) for lowest in the period.

However, during Chair Grassley’s two terms the committee saw a major increase in investigative oversight hearings—22 in the 114th Congress when he first took the gavel during the Obama administration and challenged Obama administration policies on immigration, health care, and other areas; and 10 in the 115th Congress, the first two years of the Trump administration. This compares with an average of about seven in the three prior Congresses under Chair Patrick Leahy (D, Vt.). In the 115th Congress, the committee’s investigative oversight hearings covered Russian interference in the election, restructuring the U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit (the largest in the system and one which Republicans deem irredeemably liberal), the Equifax data breach, examination of a controversial new law that allegedly hampered the opioid fight, data privacy at Facebook and elsewhere, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, problems with unaccompanied alien children, and alleged sexual misconduct in the federal judiciary.


Chairs

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)


Current Congress

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

Senate Committee on Judiciary

7 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 38% historical maximum
19 Policy/Legislative Hearings; 42% historical maximum
99 Total Hearings; 82% historical maximum

Committee History

Number of Hearings
Committee Hearing Performance
Investigative/Oversight Policy/Legislative Total Hearings Score Grade
111th Congress 8 55 145 96% A
112th Congress 7 51 123 85% B
113th Congress 5 43 109 71% C-
114th Congress 22 34 102 100% A
115th Congress 10 34 109 76% C
116th Congress* 7 19 99 70% C-
Historical average 9.8 39.3 114.5

* 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 Judiciary

Date Hearing Title Committee Category