United States Senate Committee on Finance

Seal of the United States Senate

The U.S. Senate Committee on Finance (or, less formally, Senate Finance Committee) is a standing committee of the United States Senate. The Committee concerns itself with matters relating to taxation and other revenue measures generally, and those relating to the insular possessions; bonded debt of the United States; customs, collection districts, and ports of entry and delivery; deposit of public moneys; general revenue sharing; health programs under the Social Security Act (notably Medicare and Medicaid) and health programs financed by a specific tax or trust fund; national social security; reciprocal trade agreements; tariff and import quotas, and related matters thereto; and the transportation of dutiable goods. It is considered to be one of the most powerful committees in Congress.


The Committee on Finance is one of the original committees established in the Senate. First created on December 11, 1815, as a select committee and known as the Committee on Finance and an [sic] Uniform National Currency, it was formed to alleviate economic issues arising from the War of 1812. On December 10, 1816 the Senate officially created the Committee on Finance as a standing committee. Originally, the Committee had power over tariffs, taxation, banking and currency issues and appropriations. Under this authority the committee played an influential role in the most heated topics of the era; including numerous tariffs issues and the Bank War.[1] The committee was also influential in the creation of the Department of Interior in 1849.[2] Under the Chairmanship of William Pitt Fessenden, the committee played a decisive role during the Civil War. Appropriating all funds for the war effort as well as raising enough funds to finance the war through tariffs and the nation's first income tax. Additionally, the committee produced the Legal Tender Act of 1862, the nation's first reliance on paper currency.[3]

In 1865 the House of Representatives created an Appropriations Committee to relieve the burden from the Committee on Ways and Means. The Senate followed this example by forming the Appropriations Committee in 1867.[4]

Despite the loss of one of its signature duties the committee continued to play a prominent role in the major issues of the nation. The committee was at the center of the debate over the silver question in the latter half of the 19th Century. Passage of the Bland-Allison Act and the Sherman Silver Purchase Act were attempts to remedy the demand for silver, though the silver cause would eventually fail by the end of the century.[5] The committee also continued to play a role in the debate over income taxes. The repeal of the Civil War income taxes in the 1870s would eventually be raised in 1894 with the passage of a new income tax law. The Supreme Court's decision in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan and Trust Company ruled the income tax as unconstitutional, since it was not based on apportionment. The fight for an income tax finally culminated with the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act of 1909. In order to pass the new tariff Senate leaders, including Chairman Nelson Aldrich, allowed for a Constitutional Amendment to be passed. Four years later the 16th Amendment was officially ratified and in 1913 the nation's first peacetime income tax was instituted.[6]

Around that same time the committee lost jurisdiction over banking and currency issues to the newly created Committee on Banking and Currency. The committee did gain jurisdiction over veterans’ benefits when it successfully passed the War Risk Insurance Act of 1917. The act shifted pensions from gratuities to benefits and which served as one of the first life insurance programs created under the federal government.[7]

The Finance Committee continued to play an increasingly important role in the lives of the nation's veterans. The committee helped to consolidate the veteran bureaucracy by streamlining the various responsibilities into a Veterans' Bureau which ultimately would become the Veterans' Administration. In 1924 the committee passed a "Bonus Bill" for World War I veterans which compensated veterans of that war for their service.[8] These series of increasing and providing better benefits for veterans reached a crescendo in 1944 with the passage of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act. Senator Bennett "Champ" Clark, who served as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Veterans, assured smooth sailing of the bill through the Senate. The bill not only ended the usual demands from returning veterans which had been seen in nearly every war America had participated in, but also provided the most generous benefits that veterans had ever received, including continuing education, loans and unemployment insurance.[9]

Not all Finance Committee legislation was as well received as the G.I. Bill. At the beginning of the Great Depression the committee passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. The act greatly increased tariffs and had a negative effect on the nation's economy. Following traditional economic practices the members of the committee, including Chairman Reed Smoot, felt that protection of American businesses was required in order to buoy them during the dire economic times. The effort backfired and the economic situation worsened. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff would eventually be replaced by the Reciprocal Tariff Act of 1934 which authorized the President to negotiate trade agreements. This act not only set up the trade policy system as it exists today but also effectively transferred trade making policy from the Congress to the President.[10]

The committee also played an important role in two major acts created under the New Deal. The committee received jurisdiction over the National Industrial Recovery Act because of tax code changes in the bill. The new bureaucracy was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to stimulate the economy and promote jobs for unemployed Americans while also regulating businesses. The National Recovery Administration would ultimately fail as it lost public support but the act served as a springboard to the Wagner Act and the National Labor Board.[11]

Probably the single biggest, and by far one of the most lasting, piece of legislation enacted by the Finance Committee during the New Deal was the Social Security Act. Once again the committee received jurisdiction owing to the payroll taxes that would be enacted to pay for the new program. The act was the first effort by the federal government to provide benefits to the elderly and the unemployed. The act greatly enhanced the economic welfare of many elderly Americans.[12]

In 1981, a Senate Resolution required the printing of the History of the Committee on Finance.[13]


The role of the Committee on Finance is very similar to that of the House Committee on Ways and Means. The one exception in area of jurisdiction is that the Committee on Finance has jurisdiction over both Medicare and Medicaid, while the House Ways and Means Committee only has jurisdiction over Medicare. (The House Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over Medicaid.) The other difference in terms of power is that all revenue raising measures must originate in the House giving the Ways and Means Committee a slight edge in setting tax policy. In addition to having jurisdiction over legislation the Committee has extensive oversight powers. It has authority to investigate, review and evaluate existing laws, and the agencies that implement them.

Due to the Committee's wide jurisdiction, it is often considered an influential committee. A wide array of Senators with differing policy concerns seek membership on the Committee because of its role in setting tax, trade, and health policy.

Members, 114th Congress

Majority Minority


Subcommittee Chair Ranking Member
Taxation and IRS Oversight Mike Crapo (R-ID) Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA)
International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness John Cornyn (R-TX) Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth Rob Portman (R-OH) Mark R. Warner (D-VA)
Health Care Pat Toomey (R-PA) Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure Daniel Coats (R-IN) Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy Dean Heller (R-NV) Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Source: http://www.finance.senate.gov/newsroom/chairman/release/?id=1bde1358-8e6e-4038-82ae-c950f1c0b325


Chairman Party State Years
George W. Campbell Democratic-Republican Tennessee 1815–1818
John Wayles Eppes Democratic-Republican Virginia 1818–1819
Nathan Sanford Democratic-Republican New York 1819–1821
John Holmes Democratic-Republican Maine 1821–1822
Walter Lowrie Democratic-Republican Pennsylvania 1822–1823
Samuel Smith Crawford Republican, Jacksonian Maryland 1823–1833
Daniel Webster Anti-Jacksonian Massachusetts 1833–1836
Silas Wright Jacksonian, Democratic New York 1836–1841
Henry Clay Whig Kentucky 1841
George Evans Whig Maine 1841–1845
Levi Woodbury[14] Democratic New Hampshire 1845
John C. Calhoun Democratic South Carolina 1845–1846
Dixon H. Lewis Democratic Alabama 1846–1847
Charles G. Atherton Democratic New Hampshire 1847–1849
Daniel S. Dickinson Democratic New York 1849–1850
Robert M. T. Hunter Democratic Virginia 1850–1861
James A. Pearce Democratic Maryland 1861
William P. Fessenden Republican Maine 1861–1864
John Sherman Republican Ohio 1864–1865
William P. Fessenden Republican Maine 1865–1867
John Sherman Republican Ohio 1867–1877
Justin Smith Morrill Republican Vermont 1877–1879
Thomas F. Bayard, Sr. Democratic Delaware 1879–1881
Justin Smith Morrill Republican Vermont 1881–1893
Daniel W. Voorhees Democratic Indiana 1893–1895
Justin Smith Morrill[15] Republican Vermont 1895–1898
Nelson W. Aldrich Republican Rhode Island 1898–1911
Boies Penrose Republican Pennsylvania 1911–1913
Furnifold M. Simmons Democratic North Carolina 1913–1919
Boies Penrose Republican Pennsylvania 1919–1921
Porter J. McCumber Republican North Dakota 1921–1923
Reed Smoot Republican Utah 1923–1933
Pat Harrison Democratic Mississippi 1933–1941
Walter F. George Democratic Georgia 1941–1947
Eugene D. Millikin Republican Colorado 1947–1949
Walter F. George Democratic Georgia 1949–1953
Eugene D. Millikin Republican Colorado 1953–1955
Harry F. Byrd Democratic Virginia 1955–1965
Russell B. Long Democratic Louisiana 1965–1981
Bob Dole Republican Kansas 1981–1985
Bob Packwood Republican Oregon 1985–1987
Lloyd Bentsen Democratic Texas 1987–1993
Daniel Patrick Moynihan Democratic New York 1993–1995
Bob Packwood Republican Oregon 1995
William V. Roth, Jr. Republican Delaware 1995–2001
Max Baucus Democratic Montana 2001
Chuck Grassley Republican Iowa 2001
Max Baucus Democratic Montana 2001–2003
Chuck Grassley Republican Iowa 2003–2007
Max Baucus Democratic Montana 2007 – 2014
Ron Wyden Democratic Oregon 2014 – 2015
Orrin Hatch Republican Utah 2015-present


  1. "History of the Committee on Finance United States Senate". Government Printing Office.
  2. Simms, Henry Harrison. Life of Robert M.T. Hunter: A Study in Sectionalism and Secession. Richmond: William Byrd Press, 1935
  3. Jellison, Charles A. Fessenden of Maine, Civil War Senator. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1962.
  4. "History of the Committee on Finance United States Senate". Government Printing Office.
  5. Sherman, John. Recollections of Forty Years in The House, Senate, and Cabinet: An Autobiography. 2 vols. 1895. Reprint. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968.
  6. Stephenson, Nathaniel W. Nelson W. Aldrich: A Leader In American Politics. 1930. Reprint. New York: Kennikat Press, 1971.
  7. "History of the Committee on Finance United States Senate". Government Printing Office.
  8. The Provision of Federal Benefits for Veterans. House Committee Print 171, 84th Congress, 1st Session, December 28, 1955
  9. Bennett, Michael. When Dreams Come True: The G.I. Bill and the Making of Modern America. Washington: Potomac Books, Inc., 1999.
  10. Dobson, John. Two Centuries of Tariffs: The Background and Emergence of the U.S. International Trade Commission. Washington:U.S. Government Printing Office, 1976.
  11. Ratner, Sidney. Taxation and Democracy in America. Octagon Books, 1980.
  12. Swain, Martha H. Pat Harrison: The New Deal Years. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1978.
  13. "History of the Committee on Finance United States Senate". Government Printing Office.
  14. Chaired a special session of the 29th Congress. His ten-day chairmanship of the committee is the shortest on record.
  15. Morrill holds the longest non-continuous service as Chairman, at eighteen years. Russell Long holds the longest continuous service as chairman, at sixteen years.

External links

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