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The standing committees had been appointed by ballot from their formation, in December, 1816, to the 9th of December, 1823. The appointment by ballot being restored on the 15th of April, 1826, it continued until the 24th of December, 1828, when the rule was again changed so as to require the President pro tempore to appoint the committees; and if there was no President pro tempore they were to be appointed by ballot. This mode was continued until the 9th of December, 1833, when the ballot rule was restored, which rule has continued down to the present time.
The rule adopted for the appointment of the standing committees on the 14th of February, 1828, remains the rule for the appointment of those committees at the present time; so that the ballot rule has existed, with the exception of about 7 years, from the beginning of the Government, or about 74 years.
The practice of the Senate, however, in the appointment of its committees, has, for the most part, differed from that rule.
From the beginning the journals record the formation of committees by naming the members under the form of an order of the Senate, sometimes on motion of a member, and at other times not so stated. This continued up to December, 1816, when the regular standing committees were authorized. Since that time the preceding statement, taken from the journals, shows particularly the manner in which all committees have been appointed.
The appointment of committees by ballot, therefore, is now and has been the rule, and the practice is required to conform to this rule until changed by the Senate, unless, by unanimous consent, the rule may be suspended in particular cases.
It has been found in practice that, without a previous consultation and arrangement, the balloting for committees is not only tedious but may result, by the plurality principle, contrary to the will of the majority, in giving all the members of a committee to a united minority of the Senate, except the chairman, who is required by the rule to be elected by a majority of ballots; and, on the other hand, with such an arrangement on the part of the majority, the minority members may be entirely excluded from the committees.
In the beginning, and before the standing committees were authorized, the practice in the Senate in the appointment of committees was assimilated to that of the Parliament of Great Britain, which, as stated by Mr. Jefferson in his Manual, was as follows:
If on motion and question it be decided that the bill shall be committed, it may then be moved to be referred to the committee of the whole house, or to a special committee. If the latter, the Speaker proceeds to name the committee. Any member also may name a single person, and the clerk is to write him down as of the committee. But the House have a controlling power over the names and number, if a question be moved against any one, and may, in any case, put in and put out whom they please.
Those who take exceptions to some particulars in the bill are to be of the committee, but none who speak directly against the body of the bill; for he that would totally destroy will not amend it, or, as it is said, the child is not to be put to a nurse that cares not for it. It is therefore a constant rule that no man is to be employed in any matter who has declared himself against it.” And when any member who is against the bill hears himself named of its committee, he ought to ask to be excused.
According to Mr. May's treatise upon the rules and usage of the Parliament, "in the House of Lords there are no special rules in regard to the appointment and constitution of select committees.” The House resolve that a select committee be appointed; after which, it is ordered that certain lords, then nominated, shall be appointed a committee to inquire into the matters referred, and to report to the House.
In the House of Commons: In order to insure fairness and efficiency in the constitution and proceedings of select committees, and to make their conduct open to observation, the House of Commons have laid down the following regulations:
1. That leave for the appointment of a special committee shall not be moved for without notice, and that in the case of members proposed to be added or substituted after the first appointment of the committee, the notice shall include the names of the members proposed to be added or substituted.
2. That it be recommended to every member moving for the appointment of a select committee to ascertain previously whether each member proposed to be named by him on such committee will give his attendance thereupon.
3. That every member intending to propose a select committee shall, one day next before the nomination of such committee, place on the notices the names of the members intended to be proposed by him to be members of such committee.
In compliance with the first of these resolutionsA select committee is usually confined to 15 members; but if from any special circircumstance a larger number should be thought necessary, the House will allow it. In special cases the House have also thought fit to appoint certian committees by ballot, or to name two members, and to appoint the rest of the committee by ballot, or to choose 21 names by ballot, and to permit each of two members nominated by the House to strike off 4 from that number. Members are frequently added to committees, and other members originally nominated are discharged from further attendance. Whatever may be the number of a committee, it is not probable that all could attend, and the House order in each case what number shall be a quorum. If no quorum were named, it would be necessary for all the members of the committee to attend. There are generally a quorum in committees of the Upper House, and in the Commons the usual number is five; but three are sometimes allowed, and occasionally seven, or any other number which the House may please to direct.
These appear to be the only remarks in the authorities named concerning the appointment or constitution of committees, which, being the only point under consideration, no further extracts on that point are necessary.
It will have been observed that these extracts relate to the appointment of select committees of Parliament.
To these committees, it appears that the committees of the Senate were, in the first instance, assimilated, and so continued until the regular "standing committees" were authorized, there appearing to be no such standing committees appointed in the Parliament. In the House of Lords, however,
A committee for standing orders is appointed at the commencement of every session which combines the functions of the committees on petitions for bills and on standing orders in the Commons. It consists of 40 lords, besides the chairman of the lords committees (of the whole house), who is always chairman of the standing order committee; and three lords, including the chairman, are a quorum.
Every opposed private bill is referred to a select committee of five lords, who choose their own chairman.
These committees are appointed in a manner very similar to that adopted in the Commons, by a committee resembling the committee of selection. A committee is named by the House every session, consisting of the chairman of committees (of the whole), and four other lords, whọ select and propose to the House the names of the five lords who are to form a select committee for the consideration of each opposed private bill.
The definition (given in May's treaties) of a select committee as applicable to both Houses of Parliament is as follows:
A select committee is composed of certain members appointed by the House to consider or inquire into any matters, and to report their opinions, for the information of the House. Like a committee of the whole House, a select committee are restrained from considering matters not specially referred to them by the House. In the House of Lords there are no
special rules in regard to the appointment and constitution of select committees. The House resolve that a select committee be appointed; after which, it is ordered that certain lords then nominated shall be appointed'a committee to inquire into the matters referred, and to report to the House.
Although in the beginning, as before stated, the Senate adopted the practice of the British Parliament in appointing select committees on all subjects requiring reference and examination, it was found by experience that impartiality, economy of time, and a just and proportionate regard to the political sentiments of the majority and minority of the House, for the time being, rendered it necessary and proper that standing committees should be appointed on each of the great or general interests of the country, in advance of any reference whatever, or at the commencement of each session of Congress, or of the Senate, to which, as a matter of course, any particular subject coming under any such general head should be referred; and that, on each of those standing committees, both sides of the House, in a just and equitable proportion, should be represented.
This fair and generous principle, so congenial to the general spirit and genius of our republican institutions, and the high character of the Senate of the United States, is now the settled practice of this honorable body, and has not in any instance been intentionally departed from.
All of which, agreeably to request, is most respectfully submitted to the Hon. Henry B. Anthony, Senator of the United States from the State of Rhode Island, by his obedient servant,
W. HICKEY, Chief Clerk Senate United States.