Before a bill comes before the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives for consideration, it must pass through a subcommittee and committee that specialize in the type of legislation the bill proposes. Both the House and the Senate have a three-step process to appoint committee members. Each committee is represented by legislators of both major political parties. Appointments on each committee are divided in proportion to the seats each party controls in the chamber the committee serves.
Republicans and Democrats generally know how many seats they will receive in each committee before Congress convenes. Third party and independent legislators may be assigned to committees through either party. The parties select their desired committee appointments through a system which allows experienced legislators first choice of appointments by seniority. In most cases, legislators opt to stay on the committees they served in previous sessions of Congress. A drawing is held to determine the order in which new legislators may pick committee assignments. After all committee assignments are chosen within the parties, the parties' senators and representatives vote on whether to approve the slate of appointees. Once each party has approved its slate of appointees, they are presented to the full House or Senate for approval. Approval votes – both within the parties and before the legislative bodies – are usually approved without significant opposition.
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