United States House Committee on Appropriations

Logo of the United States House Committee on Appropriations.

The United States House Committee on Appropriations is a committee of the United States House of Representatives.

The committee is responsible for passing appropriation bills along with its Senate counterpart.[1] The bills passed by the Appropriations Committee regulate expenditures of money by the government of the United States. As such, it is one of the most powerful of the committees, and its members are seen as influential. They make the key decisions about the work of their committees—when their committees meet, which bills they will consider, and for how long.


The constitutional basis for the Appropriations Committee comes from Article one, Section nine, Clause seven of the U.S. Constitution, which says

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.[2] 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 of creation the membership of the committee stood at nine; it currently has 53 members.[2] 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-PA), Joseph Cannon (R-IL), Joseph Byrns (D-TN) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)--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 May 1945 when Congressman Albert J. Engel queried extra funds for the Manhattan Project, the administration approved a visit to CEW (and HEW if desired) by selected legislators, including Engel, Mahon, Snyder, John Taber and Clarence Cannon (the committee chairman). About a month earlier Taber and Cannon had nearly come to blows over expenditure. But after visiting the Clinton Engineer Works at Oak Ridge Taber asked General Groves and Colonel Nichols Are you sure you’re asking for enough money? Cannon commented Well, I never expected to hear that from you, John. [3]

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. Under House Rules, an exception to this is that five Members of the Appropriations Committee must serve on the House Budget Committee—three for the Majority and two for the Minority. 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, 114th Congress
Majority [4] Minority [5]


Reorganization in 2007

In 2007, the number of subcommittees was increased to 12 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 hoped will allow Congress to "complete action on each of the government funding on time for the first time since 1994."[9]

The new structure added the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, and transferred jurisdiction over Legislative Branch appropriations from the full committee to a newly reinstated Legislative Branch Subcommittee, which had not existed since the 108th Congress.

List of subcommittees

Subcommittee Chair Ranking Member
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Robert Aderholt (R-AL) Sam Farr (D-CA)
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies John Culberson (R-TX) Mike Honda (D-CA)
Defense Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) Pete Visclosky (D-IN)
Energy and Water Development Mike Simpson (R-ID) Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
Financial Services and General Government Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) José E. Serrano (D-NY)
Homeland Security John Carter (R-TX) Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Ken Calvert (R-CA) Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Tom Cole (R-OK) Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
Legislative Branch Tom Graves (R-GA) Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Charlie Dent (R-PA) Sanford Bishop (D-GA)
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Kay Granger (R-TX) Nita Lowey (D-NY)
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) David Price (D-NC)


Chairmen, 1865-present

Chairman Party State Years
Thaddeus Stevens Republican Pennsylvania 1865–1868
Elihu B. Washburne Republican Illinois 1868–1869
Henry L. Dawes Republican Massachusetts 1869–1871
James A. Garfield Republican Ohio 1871–1875
Samuel J. Randall Democratic Pennsylvania 1875–1876
William S. Holman Democratic Indiana 1876–1877
John D. C. Atkins Democratic Tennessee 1877–1881
Frank Hiscock Republican New York 1881–1883
Samuel J. Randall Democratic Pennsylvania 1883–1889
Joseph G. Cannon Republican Illinois 1889–1891
William S. Holman Democratic Indiana 1891–1893
Joseph D. Sayers Democratic Texas 1893–1895
Joseph G. Cannon Republican Illinois 1895–1903
James A. Hemenway Republican Indiana 1903–1905
James Albertus Tawney Republican Minnesota 1905–1911
John J. Fitzgerald Democratic New York 1911–1917
J. Swagar Sherley Democratic Kentucky 1917–1919
James W. Good Republican Iowa 1919–1921
Charles Russell Davis Republican Minnesota 1921–1923
Martin B. Madden Republican Illinois 1923–1928
Daniel R. Anthony, Jr. Republican Kansas 1928–1929
William R. Wood Republican Indiana 1929–1931
Joseph W. Byrns Democratic Tennessee 1931–1933
James P. Buchanan Democratic Texas 1933–1937
Edward T. Taylor Democratic Colorado 1937–1941
Clarence Cannon Democratic Missouri 1941–1947
John Taber Republican New York 1947–1949
Clarence Cannon Democratic Missouri 1949–1953
John Taber Republican New York 1953–1955
Clarence Cannon Democratic Missouri 1955–1964
George H. Mahon Democratic Texas 1964–1979
Jamie L. Whitten Democratic Mississippi 1979–1993
William H. Natcher Democratic Kentucky 1993–1994
David R. Obey Democratic Wisconsin 1994–1995
Bob Livingston Republican Louisiana 1995–1999
C.W. Bill Young Republican Florida 1999–2005
Jerry Lewis Republican California 2005–2007
David R. Obey Democratic Wisconsin 2007–2011
Hal Rogers Republican Kentucky 2011–2017
Rodney Frelinghuysen Republican New Jersey 2017

See also


  1. Tollestrup, Jessica. "The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction". Senate.gov. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  2. 1 2 "About the Committee". house.gov. Retrieved February 25, 2012.
  3. Nichols, Kenneth D. (1987). The Road to Trinity: A Personal Account of How America’s Nuclear Policies Were Made. New York: William Morrow and Company. p. 174. ISBN 0-688-06910-X. OCLC 15223648.
  4. H.Res. 17
  5. H.Res. 7, H.Res. 22
  6. H.Res. 6
  7. Jeff Fortenberry, Tom Rooney, Chuck Fleischmann, Jaime Herrera Beutler, David Joyce, and David Valadao are serving their first term on the committee in the 113th Congress. "Chairman Rogers Welcomes Six New Members to the Appropriations Committee". Committee on Appropriations. November 29, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  8. Steve Israel, Tim Ryan, Dutch Ruppersberger, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Henry Cuellar, Chellie Pingree, Mike Quigley, and Bill Owens are serving their first term on the committee in the 113th Congress.
  9. "Senate, House Appropriations Set Subcommittee Plans for New Congress". Committee on Appropriations. January 4, 2007. Archived from the original on January 31, 2007. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  10. "Chairman Rogers Announces Subcommittee Chairs for the 113th Congress". Committee on Appropriations. December 31, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2013.

External links

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