Legislation, Presidential & Congressional Politics/Regarding a hearing affecting a bill



I'm interested in this scenario.  If a Senate Armed Services committee is holding a hearing that highlights serious concerns into the use of private military contractors overseas, could this affect an appropriations bill that funds the Defense Department that contracts with the private military contractors?

ANSWER: Dear Dennis--

I'm not sure I understand exactly what you are asking. Could you please supply a little more background about what you are trying to find out? Are you asking about the legal powers of the Armed Services Committee, or about the political effects of a hearing?

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for replying, John.  I was trying to understand the legal powers the Armed Services Committee has, for example during the Blackwater scandal in Iraq in Nisour Square, could the committee have prohibited the funding to them specifically.

OK, now I see where you are coming from. The Armed Services Committee is a legislative committee; that is, they have the power to report bills to the Senate floor. In order for the bills to take effect, of course, they have to be passed by the Senate, then passed by the House and signed by the President. So they could report a bill that prohibited spending money on mercenaries, but it would need many more approvals before it went into effect.

Alternatively, the Appropriations Committee (of either House of Congress) could include language in an appropriations bill saying that no money appropriated in the bill could be spent paying mercenaries. Similarly, if that passed, it would have the same effect. It might be easier to get the President to sign that, since if he did not sign it the military would not get the money in the bill. On the other hand, for the last few years Congress has not been passing most appropriations bills, just appropriating money by continuting resolutions, because they have not been able to agree on the provisions of the bills. It would be hard politically, though not impossible, to put language of that sort in a continuing resolution.

This is a big question, and I can only give you a small answer here, but I hope this will help you get started.

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John C. Berg


How Congress works, how to influence Congress, how Congress can be improved, how state legislatures work, how to influence state legislatures, how the Massachusetts legislature works, how to influence the Massachusetts legislature, why the presidential debates are unfair, how to improve the presidential debates, why the US electoral system is unfair, how to improve the US electoral system, how to end the two-party monopoly


Political activist for 40 years, currently working on the Ralph Nader presidential campaign. Professor of political science for 26 years.

American Association of Political Consultants, American Political Science Association, International Political Science Association, Caucus for a New Political Science, International Political Science Association, National Society for Experiential Education

Polity, Policy Studies Journal, Journal of Politics, Legislative Studies Journal, author of Unequal Struggle: Class, Gender, Race, and Power in the US Congress (Westview Press, 1994).

PhD Harvard University 1975
MA Harvard University 1973
BA with Honors University of Wisconsin 1964

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