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The Committee on Appropriations is a committee of the United States House of Representatives. It is in charge of setting the specific expenditures of money by the government of the United Statesmarker. As such, it is one of the most powerful of the committees, and its members are seen as influential.


The constitutional basis for the Appropriations Committee comes from Article one, Section nine, Clause seven of the U.S. Constitution, which states that:
No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.

This clearly delegated the power of appropriating money to Congress, but was vague beyond that. Originally, the power of appropriating was taken by the Committee on Ways and Means, but the United States Civil War placed a large burden on the Congress, and at the end of that conflict, a reorganization occurred.

The Committee was created on December 11, 1865, when the House separated the tasks of the Committee on Ways and Means into three parts. The passage of legislation affecting taxes remained with Ways and Means. The power to regulate banking was transferred to the Committee on Banking and Commerce. The power to appropriate money--to control the federal pursestrings--was given to the newly-created Appropriations Committee.

At the time the membership of the committee stood at nine; it currently has 60 members. The power of the committee has only grown since its founding; many of its members and chairmen have gone on to even higher posts. For example, four of them--Samuel Randall (D-PAmarker), Joseph Cannon (R-ILmarker), Joseph Byrns (D-TNmarker) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CAmarker)--have gone on to become the Speaker of the House, and one, James Garfield, has gone on to become President.

The root of the Committee's power is its ability to disburse funds, and thus as the federal budget has risen, so has the power of the Appropriations Committee. The first budget of the U.S., in 1789, was for $639,000--a hefty sum for the time, but a much smaller amount relative to the economy than the federal budget would later become. By the time the Appropriations committee was founded, the Civil War and inflation had raised expenditures to roughly $1.3 billion, increasing the clout of Appropriations. Expenditures continued to follow this pattern--rising sharply during wars before settling down--for over 100 years.

Another important development for Appropriations occurred in the presidency of Warren G. Harding. Harding was the first President to deliver a budget proposal to Congress (see United States budget process).

In the early 1970s, the Appropriations committee faced a crisis. President Richard Nixon began "impounding" funds, not allowing them to be spent, even when Congress had specifically appropriated money for a cause. This was essentially a line-item veto. Numerous court cases were filed by outraged interest groups and members of Congress. Eventually, the sense that Congress needed to regain control of the budget process led to the adoption of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which finalized the budget process in its current form.


The Appropriations committee is widely recognized by political scientists as one of the "power committees," since it holds the power of the purse. Openings on the Appropriations committee are often hotly demanded, and are doled out as rewards. It is one of the exclusive committees of the House, meaning its members typically sit on no other committee. Much of the power of the committee comes from the inherent utility of controlling spending. Its subcommittee chairmen are often called "Cardinals" because of the power they wield over the budget.

Since Congress is elected from single-member districts, how well the member secures rewards for his or her district is one of the best indicators as to whether or not he or she will be reelected. One way to achieve popularity in one's district is to bring it federal spending, thus creating jobs and raising economic performance. This type of spending is often derided by critics as pork barrel spending, while those who engage in it generally defend it as necessary and appropriate expenditure of government funds. The members of the Appropriations committee can do this better than most, and as such the appointment is regarded as a plus. This help can also be directed towards other members, increasing the stature of committee members in the House and helping them gain support for leadership positions or other honors.

The committee tends to be less partisan than other committees or the House overall. While the minority party will offer amendments during committee consideration, appropriations bills often get significant bipartisan support, both in committee and on the House floor. This atmosphere can be attributed to the fact that all committee members have a compelling interest in ensuring legislation will contain money for their own districts. Conversely, because members of this committee can easily steer money to their home districts, it is considered very difficult to unseat a member of this committee at an election--especially if he or she is a "Cardinal."

In addition, the ability to appropriate money is useful to lobbyists and interest groups; as such, being on Appropriations makes it easier to collect campaign contributions (see campaign finance).

Members, 111th Congress

Majority Minority

  • electing majority members to standing committees
  • electing minority members to standing committees

Committee reorganization during the 110th Congress

In 2007, the number of subcommittees was expanded to 12 in 2007 at the start of the 110th Congress. This reorganization, developed by Chairman David Obey and his Senate counterpart, Robert Byrd, for the first time provided for common subcommittee structures between both houses, a move that both chairmen hope will allow Congress to "complete action on each of the government funding on time for the first time since 1994."

The new structure adds a new Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government transfers jurisdiction over Legislative Branch appropriations from the full committee to the newly reinstated Legislative Branch Subcommittee, which last existed during the 108th Congress.


Subcommittee Chair Ranking Member
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) Jack Kingston (R-GA)
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Alan Mollohan (D-WV) Frank Wolf (R-VA)
Defense John Murtha (D-PA) C.W. Bill Young (R-FL)
Energy and Water Development Pete Visclosky (D-IN) Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
Financial Services and General Government José Serrano (D-NY) Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO)
Homeland Security David Price (D-NC) Hal Rogers (R-KY)
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Norman Dicks (D-WA) Mike Simpson (R-ID)
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies David Obey (D-WI) Todd Tiahrt (R-KS)
Legislative Branch Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) Robert Aderholt (R-AL)
Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Chet Edwards (D-TX) Zach Wamp (R-TN)
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Nita Lowey (D-NY) Kay Granger (R-TX)
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies John Olver (D-MA) Tom Latham (R-IA)

Chairmen, 1865-present

Chairman Party State Years

Thaddeus Stevens Republican Pennsylvaniamarker 1865 – 1868

Elihu B. Washburne Republican Illinoismarker 1868 – 1869

Henry L. Dawes Republican Massachusettsmarker 1869 – 1871

James A. Garfield Republican Ohiomarker 1871 – 1875

Samuel J. Randall Democratic Pennsylvaniamarker 1875 – 1876

William S. Holman Democratic Indianamarker 1876 – 1877

John D. C. Atkins Democratic Tennesseemarker 1877 – 1881

Frank Hiscock Republican New Yorkmarker 1881 – 1883

Samuel J. Randall Democratic Pennsylvaniamarker 1883 – 1889

Joseph G. Cannon Republican Illinoismarker 1889 – 1891

William S. Holman Democratic Indianamarker 1891 – 1893

Joseph D. Sayers Democratic Texasmarker 1893 – 1895

Joseph G. Cannon Republican Illinoismarker 1895 – 1903

James A. Hemenway Republican Indianamarker 1903 – 1905

James Albertus Tawney Republican Minnesotamarker 1905 – 1911

John J. Fitzgerald Democratic New Yorkmarker 1911 – 1917

J. Swagar Sherley Democratic Kentuckymarker 1917 – 1919

James W. Good Republican Iowamarker 1919 – 1921

Martin B. Madden Republican Illinoismarker 1921 – 1928

Daniel R. Anthony, Jr. Republican Kansasmarker 1928 – 1929

William R. Wood Republican Indianamarker 1929 – 1931

Joseph W. Byrns Democratic Tennesseemarker 1931 – 1933

James P. Buchanan Democratic Texasmarker 1933 – 1937

Edward T. Taylor Democratic Coloradomarker 1937 – 1941

Clarence Cannon Democratic Missourimarker 1941 – 1947

John Taber Republican New Yorkmarker 1947 – 1949

Clarence Cannon Democratic Missourimarker 1949 – 1953

John Taber Republican New Yorkmarker 1953 – 1955

Clarence Cannon Democratic Missourimarker 1955 – 1964

George H. Mahon Democratic Texasmarker 1964 – 1979

Jamie L. Whitten Democratic Mississippimarker 1979 – 1993

William H. Natcher Democratic Kentuckymarker 1993 – 1994

David R. Obey Democratic Wisconsinmarker 1994 – 1995

Bob Livingston Republican Louisianamarker 1995 – 1999

C.W. Bill Young Republican Floridamarker 1999 – 2005

Jerry Lewis Republican Californiamarker 2005 – 2007

David R. Obey Democratic Wisconsinmarker 2007 – present

See also

External links


  1. Senate, House Appropriations Set Subcommittee Plans for New Congress

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