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What is a Standing Committee

An Overview of Standing Committees and the Roles They Play

There are 19 standing committees in the US House of Representatives and 16 in the US Senate. So, what do these standing committees do?
Abhijit Naik
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Our lack of understanding about terms like 'standing committee' or 'permanent committee' can be attributed to our ignorance about the political spectrum. You must have heard and read about such terms in the news on several occasions, but have you ever wondered what these committees are, how they are formed, or what role they play in the world of politics?
Standing Committee: An Overview
A standing committee is a permanent committee comprising a group of members belonging to a larger body, which is appointed for a specific purpose depending on what larger body it represents. The standing committee of a parliament, for instance, is a permanent committee established to implement various activities of the parliament in countries which have a government system based on the Westminster system. Similar examples are seen in various other nations of the world. It is established by the rules set by parent organization. The number of members can range anywhere between 6 to 50 members of the organization.
Its Role
The role of a standing committee depends on which organization it belongs to. In the United States, a standing committee in Congress is allowed to hold hearings and make recommendations on legislative measures. The U.S. Constitution doesn't have a direct role to play in establishing this committee. However, the clause which states that the House can determine the Rules of its Proceedings, gives the Congress the right to come up with their own governing rules.
It is the enabling act which decides how a standing committee functions. Generally, this committee is given jurisdiction of a particular area of the parent organization. Its responsibilities revolve around the basic concept of providing aid the parent organization in accomplishing its duties. It can also work as a think tank of the organization and act as a source of guidance. The committee tends to retain these powers until subsequent official actions dissolve it.
  • In the U.S. Congress, a standing committee is a permanent legislative panel which is formed by inputs from the House of Representatives and Senate. Other than considering bills and issues, these committees also oversee programs and activities within their jurisdiction.
  • In Canada, the Standing Orders of House of Commons establish permanent standing committees, which act as monitoring authorities for administration, policy development, budgetary estimates, etc. As of today, there are 23 standing committees in the House and 18 in the Senate.
  • In the British House of Commons, such committees are referred to as public bill committees and are assigned the task of reviewing Bill (proposed law). The Bill is sent to the public bill committee for consideration after its Second Reading in the House of Commons.
These committees play a crucial role in smooth functioning of the legislative operations of the nation. With the number of issues that the national government handles on a daily basis, it wouldn't have been possible for it to function properly. By assigning the tasks to these committees, it can look after the priority issues, while the committees take care of relatively less serious issues.