Congressional Committees and Healthcare Policy

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Congressional Committees and Healthcare Policy (Chapter Review)

An important point made in Weissert and Weissert concerning Congress and its committee structure is that the majority of the work in Congress is done through committees. They perform the majority of research on issues and possible solutions, get legislation written, re-written and amended, and support it as it moves through Congress and finally gets passed. They are the “workhorses of the legislature” (Weissert and Weissert, 29).

The breadth of information on any given issue that has to be assimilated, analyzed and formed into a bill that can be passed by the two chambers of Congress is complex, and lawmakers cannot realistically apply significant time and attention to every issue. Committees allow economy of scope to occur. Relatively small groups concentrate on an area, consider different perspectives, and develop legislation – which ideally everyone can live with - more efficiently. By concentrating on a select subject, the members of committees can immerse themselves in an area that they have interest in (or have been assigned to have an interest in), and through their “expertise” can wield influence in that area. They specialize in a subject and “become experts and share their knowledge” (Weissert and Weissert, 34). Standing committees, which are permanent, have a specific focus and “screen, examine and report on legislation referred” to their committee, while policy committees, “organized by subject area,” authorize legislation (Weissert and Weissert, 29, 30). Conference committees are temporary but powerful, created as needed to reach a compromise when “the two houses pass different versions of legislation,” (Weissert and Weissert, 29) with the authority to delete items, amend language and make “final” decisions that craft bills that both chambers and the President will accept (Weissert and Weissert, 40).

Another point made is that Congressional committees’ influence isn’t limited to...
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