Ways and Means, Committee on

views updated


WAYS AND MEANS, COMMITTEE ON. One of the most powerful and prestigious committees in the House of Representatives, this committee has general jurisdiction over all revenue measures, which constitutionally must originate in the House, and is responsible for managing the public debt, the tariff and trade laws, and the Social Security and Medicare systems. Until 1865, when the separate Appropriations Committee was created, it also had jurisdiction over virtually all spending measures. Legislation originating in the Committee on Ways and Means is privileged business, meaning that it may receive floor consideration ahead of other bills. Often, matters originating in this committee have very restrictive or closed rules, reducing or eliminating floor amendments.

Established in 1795 and made a formal standing committee in 1802, the Committee on Ways and Means is the oldest congressional committee. Strong leaders, such as Thaddeus Stevens, Robert Doughton, Wilbur Mills, and Daniel Rostenkowski, have chaired it. Eight eventual presidents, eight future vice presidents, and over twenty Speakers of the House have served on the committee. As a result of its wide jurisdiction, the Committee on Ways and Means has been at the center of many of the major legislative struggles throughout history—financing wars; managing trade, tariffs, and the debt; creating the social safety net; and sharing revenue with the states.


Deering, Christopher, and Steven Smith. Committees in Congress. Congressional Quarterly Press, 1997.

Kennon, Donald R., and Rebecca M. Rogers. The Committee on Ways and Means, A Bicentennial History, 1789–1989. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1989.

Brian D.Posler

See alsoCongress, United States .