Authorization, appropriations, investigative, and legislative hearings by standing committees, specialized investigations by select committees, and evaluations and studies by congressional support agencies and staff are examples of these.... Oversight also includes the process by which a body checks on its own actions or those of others within its scope of authority.
Oversight can be done formally or informally. Formal oversight occurs when a committee has the power to oversee specific executive branch activities. In order to conduct formal oversight, you need a committee and witnesses to question. Informal oversight is doing everything else that a committee does. These include monitoring agency action, holding hearings, making reports, and other activities not tied to a particular policy issue. All three branches of government engage in informal oversight.
In addition to conducting formal and informal oversight, Congress also has the power to create laws, resolutions, or bills that have the effect of overseeing activities within their jurisdiction. An example of this would be legislation that sets up agency review processes for certain types of contracts or grants. Such measures do not require Senate approval but cannot become law without Congressional approval either.
Congressional oversight is important because it helps committees determine if federal agencies are following the law and whether they need additional resources to carry out their duties.
Congress primarily wields this authority through its congressional committee structure. Authorization, appropriations, investigative, and legislative hearings by standing committees, specialized investigations by select committees, and evaluations and studies by congressional support agencies and staff are examples of these. Agencies also have a number of powers that can be classified as implicit in their structure or derived from other laws. For example, an agency may have the power to issue rules pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act; such rules would then have the force and effect of law.
In addition to these methods, Congress can remove executive officers by legislation or by issuing a writ of impeachment. An officer who is impeached becomes ineligible for office until elected again. In cases where there is no election, such as during a temporary vacancy, an agent can perform duties as directed by Congress. Finally, Congress can withhold funds from agencies if it decides they are not being used in accordance with law. In such cases, federal agencies must reduce their budgets or close down their operations.
The President can transfer officials between agencies, but only if he or she finds that doing so will benefit the government. He or she can also merge two agencies or combine them with another department. However, under no circumstances can the President eliminate an agency.
An agency may fail to fulfill its responsibilities and could therefore become ineffective.
Oversight takes place in a wide range of legislative actions and circumstances. Oversight also takes place in many other ways, such as passage of laws requiring the administration to report information about itself or its programs to Congress.
Congress has the sole authority to make laws establishing offices and administering those offices. This includes the power to appoint officers who hold office during good behavior. A president can't just remove an officer from his position; instead, he or she can be removed through a process called "discipline." For example, if a president believes that a member of the armed forces should be discharged from the military service, then this could lead to that person being dismissed from their position with the Department of Defense (DoD).
Officers who aren't removed through this process remain at their post until they die or are otherwise removed from their position. Appointments may be made during a presidential election year, when voters have a chance to vote out officials who have been appointed by the previous administration. In order for an appointment to take effect, however, it must be confirmed by the Senate. If the Senate fails to confirm an appointment, then the office remains vacant.
Standing and select congressional committees may undertake oversight, as well as assessments and studies done by congressional support agencies and personnel. Standing or special congressional committees conduct hearings and investigations. Consulting with or receiving direct reporting from the president or other officials is also used by committees to perform their duties.
House and Senate committees have the authority to issue subpoenas to require witnesses to appear before them and testify. In addition, they can demand information relating to their investigations and activities. Members of committees can issue statements regarding their investigations and deliberations.
Committees can also report bills or resolutions to recommend legislation or amendments. These are known as "privileged" matters because they are considered to be so important or significant that they cannot be ignored by the body which receives them. The committee reports are often influential in shaping legislative history and guiding future actions of the committee.
Congress uses a variety of tools to hold the executive branch accountable for its actions. These include appropriations, authorizing statutes, and resolutions of disapproval. Committees may also have the power to investigate executive branch activity. However, they usually do not have the ability to compel testimony or evidence from current or former officers. They can only report their findings and recommendations to the full House or Senate.
Appropriations processes are used to determine the funds that will be made available to federal departments and agencies.
Oversight in Congress can take numerous forms, including: Standing or special congressional committees conduct hearings and investigations. Consultation with or direct reports from the president providing advise and permission for certain high-level presidential nominees and treaties. The power to approve or veto bills passed by Congress.
In addition, the Constitution provides for several other means of Congressional oversight, including the power to impeach federal officials who violate their oaths of office. Additionally, the Senate has the authority to remove officers from office by withholding its approval of their appointments. Finally, both chambers of Congress have the ability to conduct oversight through legislative investigations which do not result in legislation but instead provide evidence for future action.
Oversight is critical to the function of Congress as a check on the executive branch. Without it, there would be no way to hold officials accountable for their actions.
An example of Congressional oversight that is well known today was provided by the House Judiciary Committee in 1977 when it conducted the "Church Committee" investigation into the activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The report produced by this committee led to major changes within the agency to ensure that such abuses would never happen again.
Another example of Congressional oversight that is less well known today is the fact that each year both houses of Congress conduct reviews of the work of the various agencies that fall under their jurisdiction.