What is the impact of hearings in Congress

European Parliament / Think tank

Congressional Control of the US Government: Means and Actors

31-10-2016

The committees and individual members of the US Congress control the executive branch (government) among other things in order to pursue legislative goals, to strengthen the efficiency within the government and / or to point out deficiencies or achievements of the government. Congress uses both formal and informal instruments to control or oversee the executive branch. When informal tools, such as discussions with senior government officials or letters from MPs and senators, do not produce results, Congress can use official control techniques such as investigations or hearings. The US government is supervised both internally and externally. Every government ministry and most agencies have an internal oversight position, an office of the General Inspectorate. For external oversight, Congress has various bipartisan agencies such as the GAO Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Congressional Research Service (CRS). The RIA (Regulatory Impact Assessment) is the instrument for ex-ante verification of the main potential effects of regulations. The government ministries and agencies do this themselves, which is partly checked by one of the White House offices, the OIRA (Bureau of Information and Regulation). Ex post evaluations are carried out on the basis of a variety of ex post reviews. If Congress finds a provision (ordinance) unsatisfactory, it can repeal it, change underlying legislation, or use budgetary powers to refuse funding. The European Parliament is more involved in ex-ante evaluations than the US Congress, as it examines the Commission's impact assessment at the same time as the corresponding legislative proposal. At the ex-post level, the competences of the European Court of Auditors are roughly the same as those of the GAO, with the difference that it is independent of Parliament. The European Parliament also carries out its own implementation assessments of the EU legislation in force. For further discussions on the topic and in particular a comparison with the system in the EU, see the parallel analysis of the control of the US executive (“Oversight of the US executive”).

The committees and individual members of the US Congress control the executive (government) among other things in order to pursue legislative goals, to strengthen the efficiency within the government and / or to point out deficiencies or achievements of the government. Congress uses both formal and informal instruments to control or oversee the executive branch. When informal tools, such as discussions with senior government officials or letters from MPs and senators, do not produce results, Congress can use official control techniques such as investigations or hearings. The US government is supervised both internally and externally. Every government ministry and most agencies have an internal oversight position, an office of the General Inspectorate. For external oversight, Congress has various bipartisan agencies such as the GAO Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Congressional Research Service (CRS). The RIA (Regulatory Impact Assessment) is the instrument for ex-ante verification of the main potential effects of regulations. The government ministries and agencies do this themselves, which is partly checked by one of the White House offices, the OIRA (Bureau of Information and Regulation). Ex post evaluations are carried out on the basis of a variety of ex post reviews. If Congress finds a provision (ordinance) unsatisfactory, it can repeal it, change underlying legislation, or use budgetary powers to refuse funding. The European Parliament is more involved in ex-ante evaluations than the US Congress, as it examines the Commission's impact assessment at the same time as the corresponding legislative proposal. At the ex-post level, the competencies of the European Court of Auditors are roughly the same as those of the GAO, with the difference that it is independent of Parliament. The European Parliament also carries out its own implementation assessments of the EU legislation in force. For further discussions on the topic and in particular a comparison with the system in the EU, see the parallel analysis of the control of the US executive (“Oversight of the US executive”).