Early this year the senate reorganized its committee system, resulting in a reduction of the number of standing, select and joint committees from 31 to 24.
But the House during the past two years has been going in the opposite direction, with the number of committees, particularly ad hoc and select committees, proliferating.
Yesterday, Rep. James Scheuer (D-N.Y.) tried to have another select committee formed, this time a Select Committee on Population. But the House Rules Committee decided instead to institute a form of committee birth control.
Scheuer argued before the Rules Committee, which controls the creation of new committees, that while seven different committees have subcommittees with jurisdiction over population-related legislation, nobody was looking at the population explosion as a whole, giving it the attention it deserves.
His selecti committee, like most select committees, would not have had the authority to write legislation, and it would not have put any of the other subcommittees out of business. It would simply have studied the problem and sent a report with recommendations to the other committees.
Rep. Clement Zablocki (D-Wis.), chairman of the International Relations Committee, which handles population programs funded by foreign aid, called Scheuer's proposed committee "duplicative and unnecessary," even though Zablocki acknowledged he had signed a paper supporting it.
Rules Committee member Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.) said rather than "constantly going about establishing select committees, we ought to clean up the subcommittees we have or make sure they're doing their jobs."
Rep. Richard Bolling (D-Mo.) said there were some 150 proposals to create at least 18 different select committees.
Largely because of the creation of select committees, the number of select, ad hoc, joint and standing committees of the House has risen to 34, at the same time that the Senate number has dropped.
This year alone the House has created a select committee on ethics, one on congressional operations, one on assassinations and an ad hoc committee on energy.
Last year, in addition to select committees on aging, the Outer Continental Shelf, the House beauty shop, and narcotics abuse, there were select committees on sports, missing persons in Southeast Asia and intelligence, though the latter three have since gone out of business.
This year, the House's roster of eight select committees will cost taxpayer's some $5 million for the year.
Proposals to create more committees include forming select committees on national security, abortion, fiscal problems of cities, nuclear policy, mexican-U.S. relations, insurance rate increases and nationalization of the oil industry.
At least one more select committee, similar to one the Senate has to oversee the Central Intelligence Agency and intelligence community, is almost certain to be formed.
Yesterday, however, the Rules Committee decided to put a check on the committee explosion. And how else? It decided to form an ad hoc committee to study the problem of creating more select committees.
Scheuer's proposal to create a Population Committee and all other proposals will be referred to the new ad hoc committee which Rep. Gillis Long (D-La.) will head. Long said he hopes to come up with some "rational policy or approach" to the matter.