Who has an authority to decide on US congressional hearing topics and persons to be questioned? I am mostly interested in the answer for investigative hearings.

Is any way for public to affect that process?

  • 1
    Generally speaking, a Senate or House Committee decides on holding a meeting. See e.g. CRS Report RL 30548, Hearings in the U. S. Senate: A Guide for Preparation and Procedure. One way for the public to affect that process would be by contacting representatives who are members of the committee.
    – Drux
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 18:50

1 Answer 1


This is the power of the calendar that makes the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader so powerful - they get to decide what issues will be brought up in a given session.

Once the issue is placed on the calendar, individual committee chairman - usually the ranking member of the majority and minority parties, decide what hearings and committee meetings will be held on a given topic.

As to influencing hearings, really there are only a few things you as private citizen (or a lobbyist) for that matter can do:

  • Write / Contact your Member to request hearings on a matter
  • Meet with your Member to convince them that you should testify in such a hearing, if one exists. Typically, this only happens if you are a notable expert in the field, have a particularly good sob story, or are Angela Jolie.
  • Raise lots of money to air ads on Fox/MSNBC/CNN that say "Here's a problem. Call your Congressman at (202)224-3121 (yes, that's the number) and demand they hold hearings into the matter.

And, last but not least:

  • Resign yourself to the fact that the United States Congress is so busy as to make it unlikely to have hearings on a matter of importance to you.

Hearings are mostly opportunities for members to go on record anyway. If you really want action, you contact your member privately, convince of them of a need, and see if you can quietly sneak a bill through without going public. As Hedrick Smith's Iron Law of Politics implies, the less publicity your issues generates, the more likely it is for action to be possible in the first place.

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