Updated March 8, 1999
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
House Committee Hearings:
Scheduling and Notification
Carol Hardy Vincent
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Each House committee has authority to hold hearings whether the House is in
session, has recessed, or has adjourned (Rule XI, clause 2(m)(1)(A)). Regardless of the
type of hearing, or whether a hearing is held in or outside of Washington, hearings share
common aspects of planning and preparation.
Whether to Schedule a Hearing
A committee considers a variety of issues in deciding whether to schedule a hearing.
A committee must define the information it needs, and determine the points it wishes to
communicate, then evaluate whether a hearing is the best method of achieving these ends.
Deciding whether to schedule a hearing is influenced by factors including the salience of
issues to the nation, presidential initiatives, matters of significance to particular committee
members, and the importance of policies to constituents and interest groups. Programs
requiring reauthorization generally require committee hearings, as do allegations of waste,
fraud, or abuse in agency activities.
Each committee receives dozens or even hundreds of legislative proposals for
possible examination, and has other responsibilities such as oversight. In the context of
this overall workload, a committee must decide whether holding a hearing is the best use
of staff resources and funds. A committee also considers whether and how a hearing
would fit into its overall schedule of planned activities.
Scheduling Requirements and Practices
The committee chair generally exercises control over the hearing schedule and
determines the agenda. However, a variety of rules and other factors affect the scheduling
of a hearing. Many of these rules and related practices aim to coordinate committee
hearings with other committee meetings or House sessions to minimize interruptions of
deliberations and scheduling conflicts for Members, in order to maximize their
House committees may hold hearings at any time, except during a joint session or
joint meeting of the House and Senate (Rule XI, clause 2(i)). The computerized
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
scheduling service of the House Information Resources (HIR) allows a committee to
coordinate its schedule with that of other committees. Further, the rules of the House
Republican Conference provide that committee rules should seek to avoid overlapping
scheduling of subcommittee sessions. Consequently, the rules of many committees contain
provisions requiring subcommittee coordination in scheduling hearings.
Paramount in scheduling a hearing is choosing a date and time convenient for
committee leaders. A committee also must check the availability of its hearing rooms
before scheduling a hearing. If a committee’s own rooms are unavailable, it may be
possible to borrow a room from another committee or a House leader or officer.
Joint or field hearings often present additional scheduling issues. Each House
committee or subcommittee may conduct hearings jointly with another committee or
subcommittee of the House or Senate. Panels meeting jointly must agree on common rules
of procedure and determine logistical questions, such as coordinating meeting times.
Similarly, a committee or subcommittee may hold field hearings outside Washington.
Scheduling issues include choosing a desirable time for committee members to travel and
securing a meeting room on location.
Notification Requirements and Practices
The chair of a committee (except Rules) must give at least one week’s notice to the
public of the date, place, and subject of a hearing (Rule XI, clause 2(g)(3)). (Committees
often include additional information, such as the time and location of the hearing and
expected witnesses.) Hearings may be held with less than one week’s notice, if either the
chair, with the concurrence of the ranking minority member, or the committee by majority
vote, determines a need. When this happens, public notice of the hearing should be given
as soon as possible. These public notices of hearings appear in the Daily Digest section
of the Congressional Record and in the House’s computerized committee scheduling
service of the HIR.
Often a committee sends advance announcements of a hearing to all its members.
Some committees also require that specific pre-hearing information be sent to their
members or be made available to the public. For instance, one committee has required its
staff to prepare a concise summary of the subject matter under consideration for
committee members. Another committee has provided its members with a tentative
witness list and, to the extent practicable, a memorandum explaining the subject of the
hearing. In addition, the chair was to make available to committee members any official
reports from departments and agencies on the subject matter of the hearing. A third
committee generally has required its chair to make public the final list of witnesses 48
hours before a hearing.