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Legislative Committees

Ways and Means

National House Committee

1102 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Phone: 202-225-3625

Fax: 202-225-2610

Web Address:


 

Article I, Section 7, of the Constitution of the United States provides as follows:

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

In addition, Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution of the United States provides the following:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and...To borrow Money on the credit of the United States.

B. RULE X, CLAUSE 1, RULES OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Rule X, clause 1(t), of the Rules of the House of Representatives, in effect during the 110th Congress, provides for the jurisdiction of the Committee on Ways and Means, as follows:

(t) Committee on Ways and Means.

(1) Customs revenue, collection districts, and ports of entry and delivery.

(2) Reciprocal trade agreements.

(3) Revenue measures generally.

(4) Revenue measures relating to insular possessions.

(5) Bonded debt of the United States, subject to the last sentence of clause 4(f).

Clause 4(f) requires the Committee on Ways and Means to include in its annual report to the Committee on the Budget a specific recommendation, made after holding public hearings, as to the appropriate level of the public debt that should be set forth in the concurrent resolution on the budget.

(6) Deposit of public monies.

(7) Transportation of dutiable goods.

(8) Tax exempt foundations and charitable trusts.

(9) National Social Security (except health care and facilities programs that are supported from general revenues as opposed to payroll deductions and except work incentive programs).

C. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF COMMITTEES JURISDICTION

The foregoing recitation of the provisions of House Rule X, clause 1, paragraph(t), does not convey the comprehensive nature of the jurisdiction of the Committee on Ways and Means. The following summary provides a more complete description:

(1) Federal revenue measures generally.--The Committee on Ways and Means has the responsibility for raising the revenue required to finance the Federal Government. This includes individual and corporate income taxes, excise taxes, estate taxes, gift taxes, and other miscellaneous taxes.

(2) The bonded debt of the United States.--The Committee on Ways and Means has jurisdiction over the authority of the Federal Government to borrow money. Title 31 of Chapter 31 of the U.S. Code authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to conduct any necessary public borrowing subject to a maximum limit on the amount of borrowing outstanding at any one time. This statutory limit on the amount of public debt (the debt ceiling) currently is $11.315 trillion. The Committees jurisdiction also includes conditions under which the U.S. Department of the Treasury manages the Federal debt, such as restrictions on the conditions under which certain debt instruments are sold.

(3) National Social Security programs.--The Committee on Ways and Means has jurisdiction over most of the programs authorized by the Social Security Act, which includes not only those programs that are normally referred to colloquially as Social Security but also social insurance programs and a whole series of grant-in-aid programs to State governments for a variety of purposes. The Social Security Act, as amended, contains 21 titles (a few of which have either expired or have been repealed). The principal programs established by the Social Security Act and under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Ways and Means in the 110th Congress can be outlined as follows:

(a) Old-age, survivors, and disability insurance (Title II)--At present, there are approximately 162 million workers in employment covered by the program, and for calendar year 2005, $521 billion in benefits were paid to 48 million individuals.

(b) Medicare (Title XVIII)--Provides hospital insurance benefits to 35.2 million persons over the age of 65 and to 6.7 million disabled persons. Voluntary supplementary medical insurance is provided to 33.7 million aged persons and 6 million disabled persons. Total program outlays under these programs were $330 billion in 2005.

(c) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (Title XVI)--The SSI program was inaugurated in January 1974 under the provisions of P.L. 92-603, as amended. It replaced the former Federal-State programs for the needy aged, blind, and disabled. In October 2008, 7.5 million individuals received Federal SSI benefits on a monthly basis. Of these 7.5 million persons, approximately 1.2 million received benefits on the basis of age, and nearly 6.3 million on the basis of blindness or disability. Federal expenditures for cash SSI payments in 2007 totaled $34.2 billion, while State expenditures for federally administered SSI supplements totaled $3.7 billion.

(d) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) (part A of Title IV)--The TANF program is a block grant of about $16.5 billion dollars awarded to States to provide income assistance to poor families, to end dependency on welfare benefits, and to prevent nonmarital births, among other purposes. In most cases, Federal TANF benefits for individuals are limited to 5 years and individuals must participate in federally-defined activities to maintain their eligibility. In June 2008, about 1.7million families and 3.9 million individuals received benefits from the TANF program.

(e) Child support enforcement (part D of Title IV)--In fiscal year 2007 Federal expenditures totaled nearly $5.6 billion for the child support enforcement program. Child support collections for that year totaled $24.9 billion.

(f) Child welfare, foster care, and adoption assistance (parts B and E of Title IV)--Titles IV B and E provide funds to States for child welfare services for abused and neglected children; foster care for children who meet Aid to Families with Dependent Children eligibility criteria; and adoption assistance for children with special needs. In fiscal year 2007, Federal expenditures for child welfare services totaled $713 million. Federal expenditures for foster care and adoption assistance were approximately $6.5 billion.

(g) Unemployment compensation programs (Titles III, IX, and XII)--These titles authorize the Federal-State unemployment compensation program and the permanent extended benefits program. Between October 1, 2007, and September 30, 2008, an estimated $38.4 billion was paid in regular unemployment compensation and an additional $4.2 million for the State share of the extended benefit program. Approximately 8.8 million workers received unemployment compensation payments.

(h) Social services (Title XX)--Title XX authorizes the Federal Government to reimburse the States for money spent to provide persons with various services. Generally, the specific services provided are determined by each State. In fiscal year 2007, $1.7 billion was appropriated. These funds are allocated on the basis of population.

(4) Trade and tariff legislation.--The Committee on Ways and Means has responsibility over legislation relating to tariffs, import trade, and trade negotiations. In the early days of the Republic, tariff and customs receipts were major sources of revenue for the Federal Government. As the Committee with jurisdiction over revenue-raising measures, the Committee on Ways and Means thus evolved as the primary Committee responsible for international trade policy.

The Constitution vests the power to levy tariffs and to regulate international commerce specifically in the Congress as one of its enumerated powers. Any authority to regulate imports or to negotiate trade agreements must therefore be delegated to the executive branch through legislative action. Statutes including the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Acts beginning in 1934, Trade Expansion Act of 1962, Trade Act of 1974, Trade Agreements Act of 1979, Trade and Tariff Act of 1984, Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Implementation Act, Uruguay Round Agreements Act, and Trade Act of 2002 provide the basis for U.S. bargaining with other countries to achieve the mutual reduction of tariff and nontariff trade barriers under reciprocal trade agreements.

The Committees jurisdiction includes the following authorities and programs:

(a) The tariff schedules and all tariff preference programs, such as the General System of Preferences and the Caribbean Basin Initiative;

(b) Laws dealing with unfair trade practices, including the antidumping law, countervailing duty law, section 301, and section 337;

(c) Other laws dealing with import trade, including section 201 (escape clause), section 232 national security controls, section 22 agricultural restrictions, international commodity agreements, textile restrictions under section 204, and any other restrictions or sanctions affecting imports;

(d) General and specific trade negotiating authority, as well as implementing authority for trade agreements and the grant of normal-trade-relations (NTR) status;

(e) General and NAFTA-related TAA programs for workers, and TAA for firms;

(f) Customs administration and enforcement, including rules of origin and country-of origin marking, customs classification, customs valuation, customs user fees, and U.S. participation in the World Customs Organization (WCO);

(g) Trade and customs revenue functions of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Treasury.

(h) Authorization of the budget for the International Trade Commission (ITC), functions of the Department of Homeland Security under the Committees jurisdiction, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

D. REVENUE ORIGINATING PREROGATIVE OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

The Constitutional Convention debated adopting the British model in which the House of Lords could not amend revenue legislation sent to it from the House of Commons. Eventually, however, the Convention proposed and the States later ratified the Constitution providing that All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills. (Article 1, Section 7, clause 1.)

In order to pass constitutional scrutiny under this origination clause, a tax bill must be passed first by the House of Representatives. After the House has completed action on a bill and approved it by a majority vote, the bill is transmitted to the Senate for formal action. The Senate may have already reviewed issues raised by the bill before its transmission. For example, the Senate Committee on Finance frequently holds hearings on tax legislative proposals before the legislation embodying those proposals is transmitted from the House of Representatives. On occasion, the Senate will consider a revenue bill in the form of a Senate or S.bill, and then await passage of a revenue H.R.bill from the House. The Senate then will add or substitute provisions of the S.bill as an amendment to the H.R.bill and send the H.R.bill back to the House of Representatives for its concurrence or for conference on the differing provisions.

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