A committee is a group of people subordinate to a deliberative assembly, with the authority and responsibility to explore matters more fully than would be possible for the assembly itself. A committee may be appointed for a particular purpose by the assembly or it may be an elected body, as in a school council or community board. A committee may have a wide range of functions, from overseeing an event or project to researching an issue and making recommendations to the assembly.

Congressional committees conduct hearings to obtain information and opinions on proposed legislation, investigate/oversee activities of a government department or the implementation of a federal law. Hearings are generally open to the public.

After conducting an investigation, a committee submits a report to the assembly to present its findings and recommendations. The method of preparing the report depends on the type of committee and its jurisdiction. Some committees follow a strict formal process, while others are more informal in their procedures.

A number of House and Senate committees are currently conducting investigations into various issues. A few of those investigations are highlighted below.

The new House subcommittee on “weaponization of the federal government” held its first hearing Thursday. The panel, chaired by Rep. Steve Jordan of Kentucky, is tasked with investigating the executive branch’s collection and investigation of information on U.S. citizens, including ongoing criminal investigations. It also has the power to subpoena witnesses and documents. The panel’s members include high-profile Republican critics of the Obama administration, like Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Elise Stefanik of New York and Jason Gaetz of Florida. The panel also includes Democrats, including Reps. Plaskett of Oregon and Sarah Mimms of Washington.

At the end of a committee’s deliberation, a vote is taken to determine what action will be taken on the measure. The measure may be reported, without or with amendment, or it may be referred to another committee, or tabled (meaning the matter will not be considered further). Upon reporting a bill to the full chamber, the House committee writes a committee report which describes the purpose and scope of the bill and explains why it is recommended for approval. The report is given a bill number, prefixed with the Congress (currently 107th), and assigned a unique jacket identification number.

The jacket ID is used to identify individual documents in a committee hearing set. It is a five digit number that is printed on the front page of the document’s jacket. A number of committees have jacket numbers, and a search for one will return all hearings that have that number. A number of hearings do not have a jacket number, and are therefore difficult to find using this method. To search for these hearings, use the browse method on the Congressional Hearings browse page.