The Committee on Ways and Means is a committee of the United States House of Representatives. It has jurisdiction over all taxation, tariffs and other revenue-raising measures, as well as a number of entitlement programs including:
Constitutionally all bills regarding taxation must originate in the House of Representatives, and House procedure is that all bills regarding taxation must go through this committee. This makes this house committee particularly powerful, especially in comparison with its Senate counterpart, the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance.
The Ways and Means Committee is chaired by Representative Bill Thomas, Republican of California. The ranking Democrat is Charles Rangel of New York.
History of the House Ways and Means Committee
The Ways and Means Committee was first established during the first Congress, in 1789. However, this initial version was disbanded after only 8 weeks; for the next several years, only ad hoc committees were formed, to write up laws on notions already debated in the whole House. A permanent committee for Ways and Means was not officially created until Thursday, January 7, 1802, consisting of seven members. Upon its original creation, it held power over both taxes and spending, until the spending power was given to the new Appropriations Committee. Three future presidents - James K. Polk, Millard Fillmore, and William McKinley - served as Chairmen of the Ways and Means Committee.
Role of the Committee on Ways and Means
In recent times, Ways and Means has been one of the most important committees in a policy sense, due to its wide jurisdiction. While it lacks the prospects for reelection help that come with the Appropriations Committee, it is seen as a valuable post for two reasons. First, since its range is so broad, members with a wide array of policy concerns often seek positions, simply to be able to influence policy decisions. Major issues that have gone through this committee read like a laundry list of important bills, including welfare reform, a Medicare prescription drug benefit, President George W. Bush's tax cuts, and NAFTA and other free trade agreements. Second, given the wide array of interests that are affected by the committee, a seat makes it very easy to collect campaign contributions.
There are six Ways and Means subcommittees:
- U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade
- U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight
- U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health
- U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security
- U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources
- U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures
Chairmen of the House Committee on Ways and Means, 1805-present
- Official Committee web site (http://waysandmeans.house.gov/)