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Prepared by the Congressional Research Service

for the House Committee on Resources

Paul S. Rundquist
Specialist in American National Government

Government and Finance Division

R. Eric Petersen
Analyst in American National Government

Government and Finance Division

May 23, 2002


Early House Practice on Committees
The Resources Committee's 19th Century Predecessors

Committee on Public Lands
Committee on Private Land Claims.
Committee on Indian Affairs .
Committee on Territories
Committee on Mines and Mining
Committee on Irrigation of Arid Lands

Committee on Insular Affairs
Privileged Status and Appropriations
Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946
Redesignated as Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs
Military Cemetery Jurisdiction ....
The Interior Committee in an Era of Change
Committee Reform Amendments of 1974

The Bolling Plan on Energy and the Environment
The Hansen Committee and Its Plan
Interior Committee Jurisdiction Changes
Multiple Referrals Authorized ...

Creation of Ad Hoc Committees Allowed.
Interior Committee and Nuclear Power Jurisdiction, 1977
Committee Reform, 96' Congress
Redesignated as Committee on Natural Resources
Committee Reform 104 Congress

The Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress

3 3 4 4 5 6 6 7 7 7 8 9 11 11 12 13 13 14 14 15 15 16 18


19 19

New Jurisdiction from the Merchant Marine Committee 21
Resources Committee Jurisdiction in House Rules

Revisions in Subcommittee Structure

23 Coordination with Other House Committees

25 Conclusion

26 Appendix 1: Previous Committee Names & Components:

27 Appendix 2: Subcommittee Jurisdictions and Subjects Retained by Full Resources Committee, 107th Congress

28 Appendix 3: Examples of Inter-Committee Correspondence about Jurisdiction Issues, 107th Congress


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The contemporary House Committee on Resources possesses legislative and oversight authority over a broad range of subjects, including national parks and public lands; forests created from the public domain; water resources; oceans policy; environmental policy; energy legislation; mining policies and programs; and governmental policy toward U.S. territories and Native American groups. These policy areas have not always been gathered together in one committee, and other House committees also have jurisdiction over aspects or components of many of these policy issues. When a new policy concern was manifested in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the House typically established a new committee and assigned it responsibility for each new policy area. By the early 20th Century, the House had a large number of standing committees in which related subjects were often handled by several different committees. Starting with the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 and through a series of later committee system reorganizations, the House has sought to consolidate related policy areas within the authority of a smaller number of standing committees.

The modern House Committee on Resources can trace its evolution through nearly two centuries of the history of the House of Representatives. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 brought under the control of the federal government an enormous amount of land. The effective and orderly development of that new land area, in addition to the development of existing public lands areas, became a matter of much greater concern to Congress. In 1805, the House established a standing Committee on Public Lands. From this panel and other committees, the Committee on Resources can trace its origins.

The following historical sketch reviews House action in the intervening years to adapt its committees to changing policy circumstances, and focuses particularly on actions over the past quarter century that have led to the current structure and jurisdiction of the modern Committee on Resources.


During the first Congresses, before the creation of a public lands committee, a comprehensive standing committee system did not exist in the House of Representatives. Legislative workload was relatively light, the House was a much smaller legislative body than it is today, and congressional rules and structures were at a rudimentary stage of development.

Generally, any Member was free to seek recognition from the Speaker and urge the House to consider acting on a particular subject. If the House found the Member's argument persuasive, it would set a date for later debate on the subject in the Committee of the Whole. There, interested Members would discuss the merits of the proposal. If, ultimately, sentiment in the Committee of the whole favored further action on the issue, the House would order the Speaker to name a select committee to draft a bill according to the policy preferences of the

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