November 30, 2021

House Democrats Have a Disproportionate Number of Members on House Committees

Democrats represent 51.1 percent of all the seats in the House of Representatives, but they’re stacking committees in disproportionately, leaving Republicans with fewer seats than they should have in such a closely divided chamber. Meanwhile, as part of the power-sharing agreement between Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the organizing resolution for the Senate, S.Res. 27, specifically requires that “the committees of the Senate, including joint committees and special committees, for the 117th Congress shall be composed equally of members of both parties.”

The number of members on each standing House committee isn’t governed by statute or the Rules governing the chamber. The only exception to this is the Ethics Committee, the share of members of which are equally divided as required by Rule X, Clause 5(3)(A) of the Rules of the House. This also excludes select, special, and joint committees.

The committee ratios are handled by the majority party, although feedback from the minority may be sought. Historically, House committees have had some disproportionality. The party in the majority parties does this to ensure outcomes in committees. Presumably, this allows members who need to vote against a certain piece of legislation in committee the leeway to do so without affecting the outcome.

In the 116th Congress, according to the Congressional Research Service (Table I at the link), Democrats represented 54 percent of the House but had 57.1 percent of the committee seats, a 3.1 percentage point difference. In the current Congress, Democrats have 55.1 percent of the committee assignments compared to, as mentioned, 51.1 percent of all members of the House.

CommitteeTotal MembersDemocratIc MembersRepublican Members
Agriculture5127 (52.9%)24 (47.1%)
Appropriations5933 (55.9%)26 (44.1%)
Armed Services5931 (52.5 %)28 (47.5%)
Budget3721 (56.8%)16 (43.2%)
Education and Labor5329 (54.7%)24 (45.3%)
Energy and Commerce5832 (55.2%)26 (44.8%)
Ethics105 (50.0%)5 (50.0%)
Financial Services5430 (55.6%)24 (44.4%)
Foreign Affairs5127 (52.9%)24 (47.1%)
Homeland Security3519 (54.3%)16 (45.7%)
House Administration96 (66.7%)3 (33.3%)
Judiciary4425 (56.8%)19 (43.2%)
Natural Resources4826 (54.2%)22 (45.8%)
Oversight and Reform4525 (55.6%)20 (44.4%)
Rules139 (69.2%)4 (30.8%)
Science, Space, and Technology4223 (54.8%)19 (45.2%)
Small Business2715 (55.6%)12 (44.4%)
Transportation and Infrastructure6937 (53.6%)32 (46.4%)
Veterans’ Affairs3117 (54.8%)14 (45.2%)
Ways and Means4325 (58.1%)18 (41.9%)
Total838462 (55.1%)376 (44.9%)
Source: Clerk of the House of Representatives. The membership figures listed are those allocated to each party. Not every seat on each committee has been filled.

The most recent comparable Congress is the 106th. Republicans had 51.3 percent of all House seats and 54.9 percent of committee assignments, a 3.6 percentage point difference. The largest difference since the beginning of the 98th Congress (January 1983) and the end of the 116th Congress (January 2021) came in the 107th Congress (January 2001 to January 2003), during which Republicans had 50.8 percent of all House seats and 54.6 percent of committee assignments, a 3.8 percentage point difference. The difference in the 117th Congress is 4 percentage points.

While there may be nothing preventing Democrats from overstacking committees in their favor, it certainly isn’t a good look. However, this isn’t something that’s going to ruffle many feathers outside of the Beltway. That said, the next time Republicans have the majority, party leadership may return the disservice in kind.

Jason

Policy wonk. Nonserious musician. Playstation ID: JaseLP22

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