Preparing for Hearings
Committees hold several types of hearings to gather information. For example, legislative hearings take testimony from experts on the topic at hand—from scholars to citizens affected by a particular issue. This type of hearing accompanies the development of legislation, an important part of every committee’s work.
Investigative hearings—through which committees have the power to issue subpoenas, like a court of law—are another type of hearing used to gather information, and often to look into allegations of wrongdoing. This timer was used during hearings around 1970. The lights indicated when a witness should begin speaking (green), sum up (yellow), and stop (red).
The House held its first investigative hearing during the 1st Congress, in 1790. Robert Morris of Pennsylvania asked that his own work be investigated. He was the superintendent of finances in the Continental Congress, and he wanted to remove any suspicion of impropriety.
Like proceedings in the chamber, hearings do not happen without staff support. From attorneys to administrators, staffers conduct research, find and prepare witnesses, make schedules, and create records of proceedings, to name a few essential roles.
Tish Schwartz, former chief clerk and administrator for the Committee on the Judiciary, described her role in preparing for hearings.