While Congress may not be passing much legislation these days, its members are busy fact finding and collecting information through congressional hearings. While hearings are held year round, the spring is a particularly busy time on Capitol Hill as various committees in both the House and Senate educating themselves about various federal programs and the President’s budget request for the upcoming year. To learn about the budget request, committee chairmen invite government officials and outside experts to the Capitol to share information about their programs.
A typical hearing usually starts with an opening statement by the Chairman of the Committee and the Ranking Member, oral testimony by the invited “witnesses,” and then a question and answer session during which each Congressman is given a specific amount of time to query the witnesses. Often during the Q&A, members ask questions that reflect particular programs of interest to them. For example, at a hearing focused on the National Institutes of Health, a Member who is particularly concerned about cancer may ask a question about how much money is spent on cancer research. The witnesses answer questions on the spot if they can, and when they do not know the answer, let the Committee know that they will submit the answer after they have had a chance to research the issue for the official record of the hearing.
The majority of committee hearings is open to the public, and often are now webcast. Individuals can watch the webcast live or after the hearing is over.
If you would like to see a hearing in action, the Senate posts a weekly calendar of hearings at http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/committees/b_three_sections_with_teasers/committee_hearings.htm and the House posts a daily calendar of hearings at http://www.house.gov/ . This week, the following hearings should be of particular interest to BPS members:
Wednesday, March 28, 10 AM
Proposed Budget Estimates for Fiscal Year 2013 for the National Institutes of Health
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies
Thursday, March 29, 2012, 10 AM
Federally Funded Research: Examining Public Access and Scholarly Publication Interests
House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight
Watch the webcasts and leave a comment letting us know what you think!