Glossary & FAQs

FAQ:
Where can I watch Oversight Committee videos?
Can I watch an Oversight Committee hearing live via webcast?
Where can I find Oversight Committee press releases from the Committee?
Where can I find a list of Oversight Committee members?
Where can I find out what is going on this week in the Oversight Committee?
Where can I find information on legislation considered by the Oversight Committee?
Where can I find information from the Oversight Committee Minority?
Where can I connect with the Oversight Committee on Facebook?
How can I connect with the Oversight Committee on Twitter?
How can I confidentially and securely report waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement?

Chairman Jason Chaffetz: Chairman Chaffetz has represented Utah’s 3rd district since 2009, and has chaired the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform since 2015.

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings: Ranking Member Elijah Cummings has represented the 7th District of Maryland since 1996. He leads the Democratic Minority on the Committee.

Amendment: an alteration to a piece of legislation.  Amendments are usually made to legislation during a business meeting; however, amendments may also be made to legislation under consideration by the full House of Representatives.

Business Meeting or “Markup”: a business meeting or markup is a committee meeting to consider legislation or other matters within the committee’s jurisdiction and to decide whether or not to report that legislation to the full House of Representatives.  During a business meeting, Members of Congress debate the legislation or other matter and vote on changes (amendments) to it.  The legislation and amendments may be approved or rejected by a voice vote – when Members of Congress declare their position out loud – or a roll call vote – when the position of each Member of Congress is recorded by hand.

Committee: a group of Members of Congress responsible for conducting public hearings and developing legislation related to specific areas of public policy, also known as jurisdictions.  The House of Representatives includes 20 standing committees.  Each committee is also responsible for monitoring federal government agencies, programs and activities within their jurisdictions.  In some cases – like the Oversight Committee – jurisdiction cuts across many areas of public policy.

Committee Hearing: a committee hearing is a public meeting where Members of Congress receive information from people not on the committee itself.  Hearings may be for legislative, oversight, or investigative purposes.  Legislative hearings are those addressing bills within the area of public policy for which the committee is responsible. Where oversight and investigative hearings discover systemic failures of current policy, they may lead to the introduction of legislative solutions.

Committee Legislative Report: a written document that often accompanies a piece of legislation reported by a committee to the full House of Representatives.  It describes the legislation’s purposes and provisions, describing why the committee reported the legislation and why the House of Representatives should vote in favor of it.  The committee legislative report reflects the views of the majority, but may contain additional views from the minority or individual committee members.  For example, read the Oversight Committee Legislative Report on the Issa-Ross Postal Reform Act here.

Committee Majority and Minority: the committee majority is the party that has the greater number of members in the House of Representatives.   The committee minority is the party that has the lesser number of members in the House of Representatives.  In the 112th Congress, Republicans are in the majority in the House of Representatives and Democrats are in the minority.

Committee Staff Report: a presentation of facts found during a committee investigation.

DATA Act: The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act harnesses proven technology to let American taxpayers track federal spending, including grants, contracts, loans and agencies’ internal expenses.  It forces government to make all of these spending records available to the public, applying the methods used by the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board to expose waste, fraud and mismanagement of “stimulus” spending. DATA was approved by a unanimous vote of the Oversight Committee in September 2011.  The full text of DATA can be found here.

Fast and Furious: Operation Fast and Furious was a botched gun trafficking sting through which the Justice Department helped arm Mexican drug cartels with at least 2,000 guns, even though government officials knew that the gun purchasers were criminals.  Two weapons from Fast and Furious were recovered at the scene of the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  Learn more about the Oversight Committee investigation at http://fastandfuriousinvestigation.com.

Inspector General: an Inspector General (IG) is an independent official within a government agency charged with investigating and preventing waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement.  Inspector General investigations may be internal – targeting government employees – or external – targeting recipients of taxpayer money outside of the federal government. Occasionally, Congress creates special inspectors general with responsibilities that cut across more than one government agency.  Learn more here.

Jurisdiction: a jurisdiction is the area of responsibility for a particular Congressional committee or legislative body.  For example, the Oversight Committee has jurisdiction over policies affecting the federal government workforce.

Open Government: the right for all taxpayers to know what they get from their government.  It is the mission of the Oversight Committee to deliver open government by lowering the barriers between taxpayers and the information they need to hold the Executive Branch accountable for its spending and policy decisions.

Oversight: the constant work of ensuring taxpayer money is well spent.  It is one of the core checks-and-balances in American government: the Constitution charges Congress with the responsibility of oversight to ensure that money government takes from American taxpayers is spent according to the intent of their elected representatives.  Learn more here.

Postal Reform Act: The Issa-Ross Postal Reform Act – H.R. 2309 – upgrades the Postal Service, which has been unable to reduce its expenses even as its revenue plunges because of America’s declining use of paper mail.  The Postal Reform Act modernizes the Postal Service and normalizes its rates.  No bailouts, no nonsense.  Learn more at savingthepostalservice.com.

Regulation: a regulation is a law, rule or order passed by government to guide activity in a certain area of public life.  For example, the Environmental Protection Agency imposes regulations on energy producers to dictate how they can provide energy to American families and business.

Subcommittee: a smaller group of Members of Congress created by a Congressional Committee to assist in fulfilling their duties.  Subcommittees spread the workload, allowing for more efficient and effective policymaking and oversight.

Subpoena: a subpoena is a legal document forcing the submission of evidence, as documents or witness testimony, before a Congressional committee.  For example, during this Congress the Oversight Committee issued subpoenas to Justice Department officials regarding its investigation of Operation Fast and Furious.

Whistleblower: generally, a whistleblower is a person who brings to light illegal, dishonest, or wasteful activities.  These activities include possible violations of any law, rule or regulation; abuse of authority or regulation; danger to public safety; mismanagement; waste of funds; or a substantial and specific danger to public health.  While the origin of the term “whistleblower” is obscure, popular origins include the ability of any railroad employee who observed danger ahead to “blow the whistle” and stop the train; a policeman “blowing the whistle” to stop an illegal activity; or a referee “blowing the whistle” on a foul during a sports match.  To confidentially and securely blow the whistle on waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement, visit GOPWhistleblower.com.  Click here to view the relevant portions of the U.S. Code applicable to federal government whistleblowers.

Navigational Aids

  • Where can I watch Oversight Committee videos?
  • Can I watch an Oversight Committee hearing live via webcast?
  • Where can I find Oversight Committee press releases from the Committee?
    • Visit the Oversight Committee press releases page here.
  • Where can I find a list of Oversight Committee members?
    • You can find a complete list of the Oversight Committee members here.
  • Where can I find out what is going on this week in the Oversight Committee?
    • You can find a complete list of this week’s Oversight Committee activities on the Calendar page.
  • Where can I find information on legislation considered by the Oversight Committee?
  • Where can I find information from the Oversight Committee Minority?
    • You can find information from the Oversight Committee Minority here.
  • Where can I connect with the Oversight Committee on Facebook?
    • Visit the Oversight Committee on Facebook here.
  • How can I connect with the Oversight Committee on Twitter?
    • Follow @GOPOversight on Twitter here.
  • How can I confidentially and securely report waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement?
    • Visit the Oversight Committee’s secure whistleblower platform here to confidentially report waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement.