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Q&A: What is a select committee?

If you're wondering something, you're probably not alone. Each day we answer questions about Congress, the legislative process, and government in general. Submit your question(s), and look out for the answers in future Q&A posts!


What is a select committee?

When you hear folks talking about Senate Intelligence today, they're really talking about the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). Why's this matter? Well, a select committee is different from a standing committee.

Select committees are appointed to perform a special function that is usually beyond the capacity of standing committees (aka they're an amped up committee with a more narrow focus). They're typically more investigative in nature, than say legislative (though some have the authority to draft and report the legislation just the same). 

A select committee generally expires upon completion of its duties, but they can be renewed. This is where the distinction can get lost because select intelligence committees in both the House and the Senate are treated as permanent fixtures. 

In the case of Senate Intelligence, the committee's membership is temporary and rotates among senators. There are 15 members on the committee. Eight of those seats are reserved for one majority member and one minority member of each of the following committees: Appropriations, Armed Services, Foreign Relations, and Judiciary. Of the remaining seven seats, four are reserved for the majority and three are for the minority. 

Learn more about the types of committees.