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METHODOLOGY OF THE SURVEY The objectives of the survey were two-fold. The first goal was to make a list of all Congressional committees and their subcommittees which had conducted field hearings in the last three Congresses. The second objective was to determine whether or not committees had encountered any administrative problems or inhibitions in holding field hearings.
The information was obtained through a telephone survey of all Congressional committees conducted from May 23 through June 7, 1974. Data is current through June 7th for all committees except Senate Commerce (see footnote in the table); Senate Labor and Public Welfare (current through May 11, 1974); Senate Public Works (the committee could not supply a list for 1974); and the House Committee on Education and Labor (current through May 27, 1974).
The telephone survey procedure was followed to insure consistency in the data obtained from twenty-three Senate committees, twenty-six House committees, and eight Joint committees
As might be expected, there is a great deal of disparity in both the manner and the amount of information published by committees on field hearings. Some committees list the date, place, topic, and subcommittee holding field hearings in their calendars. Other committees list only partial information on field hearings. One standing Senate committee (Appropriations), four House standing committees (Appropriations, Internal Security, Rules, and Standards of Official Conduct), the House Permanent Select Committee on Small Business, and all special and select committees of both houses as well as the joint committees do not publish calendars. The legislative activity reports of some committees list field hearings, but this practice is not followed by all committees. Publication lists of some committees indicate those field hearings which are published. Still other committees do not publish specific information on field hearings in any format. These factors limit a researcher's ability to obtain consistent data by any methodology other than a survey of each committee.
To maximize the uniformity of committee responses to the telephone interview, a questionnaire was compiled (See Appendix A). Of course, those committees staffs which reported their committees had not held field hearings in the last three Congresses were not surveyed for administrative problems.
Committee staffs interviewed included counsels, administrative assistants, professional staff members, chief clerks, calendar clerks, and financial clerks. In each instance, an attempt was made to talk with a staff member who had served on the committee or subcommittee for a reasonable length of time. The length of service of those interviewed ranged from six months for a staffer on a new subcommittee to thirty years for a staffer on a standing committee. Almost all the committee staff persons interviewed were cooperative, searching committee records and compiling lists of field hearings when that information was not readily available. The four instances in which it was impossible to obtain information on field hearings are noted in the accompanying list.
The second objective of the survey was to determine if committees had encountered administrative inhibitions or problems in holding field hearings. The questionnaire contained a series of questions (see numbers 4-8 on the questionnaire) which were designed to gather information on this topic. Committee staff were questioned as to the procedure they followed in arranging for meeting places, transportation, lodging, stenographic or reporting services, and equipment. They were queried as to which items require prior approval from either the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration or the House Administration Committee,
PRIOR CONSULTATION FINDINGS The survey identified the following items as requiring some prior consultation or approval from either the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration or the House Administration Committee. Joint committees are also obligated to gain prior approval on these items. Although they are authorized funds directly through the Legislation Branch Appropriations Act, Joint committees are required to follow the expenditure regulations of the house from whose contingent funds their authorizations are granted. The Joint Committees on Atomic Energy, Printing, Reduction of Federal Expenditures, and the Joint Economic Committee are authorized monies from the Senate contingent fund. The Joint Committees on Congressional Operations, Defense Production, Internal Revenue Taxation, and Library, are authorized funds from the House contingent fund. Responses of joint committee staff are included in the totals for either the House or the Senate. HEARING ROOM RENTALS Rental of a hearing room must be approved in advance by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. The House Administration Committee does not require prior approval, but it does like to know in advance if possible.
Committees rarely have to rent hearing rooms as they can generally acquire space in a local public building. Arrangements can be made through the General Service Administration, but the usual practire is to work through the office of the Member in whose district the field hearing is being held.
TRAVEL AUTHORIZATIONS The travel regulations of both the Senate and the House require all travel to be authorized or approved by the chairman of the committee incurring the expense or by an official to whom such authority has been properly delegated. It is expected that ordinarily the authority will be issued prior to the incurrence of the expenses and will specify the travel to be performed as definitely as possible unless circumstances in a particular case prevent such action. Travel regulations also specify the type of accommodation which may be authorized. In essence, these regulations are designed to assure that the most convenient, direct route of transport is obtained at the least cost to the Congress Indirect routing for personal reasons can only be paid at the expense of the traveller.
Committee staff reported no problems with travel authorizations or transportation reimbursement.
PER DIEM ALLOWANCES Per diem allowances for the House and Senate vary. House regulations grant a per diem allowance in lieu of actual subsistence expenses at a rate not in excess of $35 per day for travel within the limits of the 50 States of the United States.
The Senate grants a per diem allowance in lieu of subsistence expenses of $25 per day. In the event that expenses are expected to exceed the $25 allowance, a Senate committee chairman may request advance authorization in writing for reimbursement on an actual expense basis not to exceed $40 a day. The Committee on Rules and Administration is inclined to grant the higher allowance for Members and staff engaged in field hearings, but it requires an itemized statement of the subsistence expenses incurred.
Committee staff of both the House and the Senate did complain frequently that per diem allowances often did not cover actual expenses when field hearings were conducted in metropolitan areas.
OFFICIAL REPORTERS The Senate and House also differ somewhat on the procedure followed for obtaining official reporters. Each Senate committee arranges through private companies for reporting services. The House maintains an office of Official Reporters to House Committees. When conducting field hearings, a Senate committee may arrange to hire a local reporter at the standard Congressional rates of $2.25 per page for stenographic reporting of committee hearings when the sale of the transcripts is permitted or $2.75 per page when the sale of transcripts is prohibited. When a local reporter cannot be engaged for these fees, a Senate committee may request prior approval from Senate Rules to pay the travel expenses of official reporters having company offices in Washington, D.C., or in another area near the place of the field hearing. Travel expenses may also be requested for official reporters when the nature of the field hearings is such that the reporter must have security clearance or the subjects involved are of a highly technical nature.
House committees, in securing reporting services for field hearings, must give consideration to the feasibility of securing the services of either the Official Reporters to House Committees or reliable Washington reporters whose travel expenses will be paid when prior authorization is secured from the House Administration Committee. Costs of reporting services may not exceed the $2.25/2.75 per page maximum or the cost of the prescribed ratas plus the travel expenses of sending a reporter from the District of Columbia. When the services of the Official Reporters are not available, the osts of commercial reporting services acquired through the clerk to the Official Reporters is paid from the contingent fund of the House. Travel expenses of reporters, however, are paid out of the inquiries and investigations funds of the committee holding the field hearing.
Stenographic reporting services were considered by almost all committee staff surveyed as being the single most difficult problem in holding field hearings. The number of stenographic reporters is limited and prices for this service outside Washington, D.C. are frequently higher than the maximum allowable by Senate and House regulations. Local reporters also often charge "attendance fees" which are not permissible under either House's regulations. Numerous committee staff complained that after lengthy explanations in writing to local reporters about the maximum rates allowable, hills greatly in excess of the prescribed schedule were presented. In addition, committees have difficulty in obtaining local reporters who are familiar with the highly specialized technique of recording committee hearings. The length of time required to obtain typed manuscripts from local reporting services is often much longer than with Washington firms. One committee reported a delay of two months in receiving a transcript from a local reporter which then turned out to be unusable. For these reasons, many committees prefer to pay the travel expenses of a reporter from Washington, D.C.
Some committees, however, have used local reporters with good results and at least one committee has made an arrangement with a Washington-based firm to supply local reporters wherever field hearings are held.
EQUIPMENT RENTAL Rental of office equipment in connection with field hearings is allowable by both Congressional bodies when authorized by committee chairmen. The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration does require prior approval for equipment rental necessitating a large fee. Committees, however, rarely need to rent equipment for field hearings.
DIFFICULTY IN GAINING PRIOR APPROVAL OR SECURING PAYMENT Committee staff were also queried as to whether or not they had encountered difficulty in gaining prior approval for the items listed above or in having expenses paid pursuant to field hearings.
Committee staff interviewed reported no problems in gaining prior approval from either the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration or the House Administration Committee in any of the categories on which the survey raised questions.
Only minor difficulties were reported in securing the payment of expenses. These problems arose because of : 1) a lack of cognizance on the part of the new staffers that prior approval was required for certain expenses; and 2) instances in which it was determined that committees were being overcharged for services rendered. In regard to staff ignorance of rules, both House Administration and Senate Rules send committee staffers a letter explaining the requirements for prior approval and a copy of the regulations governing expenses. In the case of overcharges, committee staff are sometimes asked by both House Administration and Senate Rules to negotiate bills which are considered exorbitant. This is especially the case in the Senate with court reporters fees.
Interviews with senior staff members of both the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the House Administration Committee indicated that such staff believe it is one of their major responsibilities to assure that the expenditures made by committees are carried out according to the regulations of their respective Houses and that committees are not charged excessive rates. Both administration committees tend to function in what might be described in commercial terms as an accountant-client relationship. Numerous staffers on various committees in both the Senate and the House agree that the administration committee staffs see their role in this light. Committee staff frequently commented about having “a good working relationship" with either Senate Rules or House Administration. The corollary was almost always added that “of course we keep them posted on what we're doing and we try to spot anything that might present a problem and we see to it that all expense vouchers are filled out accurately.'
CONCLUSIONS In summary, the findings of the survey establish that almost half of all Congressional committees have held field hearings in the last three Congresses. Of the fifty-seven Congressional committees surveyed, twenty-seven had held field hearings. These include: eleven of the Senate's standing committees; two of the Senate's four select committees; one of the Senate's two special committees; eleven of the House's twenty-one standing committees; one of the House's five select committees; and one of the eight joint committees. Of the fifty-seven Congressional committees, 47.4 percent held field hearings.
The committees interviewed did not report any significant administrative inhibitions or problems in arranging for their field hearings or in having the expenses paid pursuant to those field hearings.
TREVIA DEAN, Government and General Research Division.