Modernizing Committees

Capitol Hill Chaos/tiles/non-collection/R/RHOB_files.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Staff from the freshly moved Subcommittee on Foreign Operations and Government Information rifle through their still-displaced files.
The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 simplified House Committee structure—reducing the number of standing committees from 46 to 19—but had the opposite effect on each committee’s workload. By 1956, the number of committee staff had doubled. Offices were set up in the George Washington Inn several blocks to the southeast to hold staff that couldn’t fit on campus. The need for nine standing committee rooms, 16 sub-committee rooms, and 51 committee staff rooms was so acute that they began to move into the new building in 1964, while construction of the upper floors was still underway.

A First in the Rayburn Building/tiles/non-collection/R/RHOB_hearing.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
The House Committee on Science held the Rayburn building's inaugural committee meeting in 1965. The room was packed with Members, testifiers, spectators, and airplane models.
The new rooms also reflected changes in the orientation of committee work. At the first hearing held in the new building, a Member of the Science Committee commented that “It’s a little like sitting on the Supreme Court.” The dais design in the hearing room was something new. In Rayburn, the daises were straight, tiered affairs, facing the back of the room. This setup moved the focus outward, and was more appropriate for filming or news coverage. Originally, committees met around a table. When hearing rooms were built in the Cannon building, Members gathered in elaborately carved, semi-circular seating arrangements. Though there was space for an audience and testifiers, the Members were still arranged more for discussion than observation. The Rayburn building’s approach reflected the increasingly public nature of hearings.

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