Reform of the Rules Committee

December 9, 1948

Report Outline
Rules Committee and the Truman Program
Rise of the Rules Committee to Dominance
Remedies for Rules Committee Obstruction
Special Focus

Rules Committee and the Truman Program

Administration Concern Over Rules Committee

The make-up and future functioning of the Rules Committee of the House are matters of special concern to the Truman administration as it prepares its legislative program for the 81st Congress. The President's party will have absolute majorities of 90 in the House and 12 in the Senate of the new Congress, but the administration can have no assurance that controversial measures on its program will reach the statute books if it lacks the cooperation of the Rules Committee of the lower chamber.

The Rules Committee has been the most troublesome of all committees of Congress to President Truman, as it was to President Roosevelt before him. It controls the timetable of the House. As a corollary of its power to say when a particular measure shall be voted upon, it has power to say whether a particular measure shall be voted upon at all. It has power, when it sends a measure to the House, to limit debate and to forbid amendments; it may even order changes in a bill before letting it go to the floor. Revenue and appropriation bills have privileged status, but in the field of general legislation the Rules Committee can exercise a power of veto second only to that of the nation's Chief Executive.

When control of the government is divided, as it has been for the last two years, the Rules Committee is certain to use its powers to obstruct key administration measures. An administration blessed with a House majority, and holding control of all other committees, may still find its program endangered by an unfriendly Rules Committee. On the other hand, firm control of the Rules Committee gives an administration a powerful instrument for putting its program through Congress.

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