Order Code 98-488 GOV
Updated March 8, 2001
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
House Committee Hearings: Preparation
Richard C. Sachs
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Committee hearings afford Representatives an opportunity to gather information on,
and draw attention to, legislation and issues within a committee's purview; conduct
oversight of programs or agencies; and investigate allegations of wrongdoing.
This checklist identifies, primarily for staff, many of the tasks that need to be
performed by full committees and, in most cases, subcommittees in advance of a hearing.
Some of these tasks are required by House or committee rules; others are common
Prepare a memorandum for the chair (and perhaps for other committee
members) outlining the need for and scope of the hearing, possible
witnesses, number of hearing days anticipated, and political
Obtain the chair's approval to hold the hearing.
Check the schedule of the chair and ranking minority member, determine
availability of and reserve committee hearing room, set dates, arrange for
an official reporter, and confirm availability of "essential" witnesses.
Several days prior to the hearing, brief committee members and staff and
send them a memorandum confirming date, time, location, and topic.
The day before the hearing, call members to determine expected
attendance and ascertain that a quorum, usually two committee members,
will be present to hear testimony. Check for possible conflicts between
hearing times and House floor schedule.
Prepare an opening statement for the chair, ranking member, and other
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Select witnesses in conjunction with committee leaders, executive branch
officials, and issue leaders. House Rule XI, clause 2 provides that the
minority is entitled to call its own witnesses on at least one day of the
Invite witnesses by phone, then by formal letter from the chair, providing
hearing information and requesting pertinent information. Invitation
letters might include date, time, location, and subject; a copy of pertinent
House and committee rules; reimbursement information (if applicable);
deadline for submitting written statements and quantity required; and the
name and phone number of a staff aide.
Where appropriate interview, depose, or subpoena witnesses.
Obtain required number of copies of each witness's written statement.
Review House Rule XI, clause 4, and pertinent committee rules that
provide guidance on broadcasting committee hearings.
Provide committee press secretary with material for committee
announcements of events and activities and committee Web site.
In consultation with the press secretary, assemble media kits, and arrange
interviews or press conferences with the chair and other members.
On the hearing day and in consultation with the committee press
secretary, distribute press releases, witness statements, and the witness
Prepare members' briefing books that include description of the subject,
scope, and purpose of hearing; copies and comparisons of measures
under consideration; pertinent statutes and regulations; court decisions;
published articles; a chronology of major events; questions or talking
points; and a list of witnesses, biographical information, and copies or
summaries of written testimony. Briefing book material can be
augmented as needed.
Assemble materials on the dais, including a gavel and block (for the
chair), briefing books, House and committee rules (for the staff), cups
and water, and paper and pencils. Place cups, water, and nameplates on
the witness table.
Provide the official reporter with the witness list and statements, and
members' opening statements.