It is elsewhere stated that the usual custom is, to make the gentleman upon whose motion a committee is raised, chairman of that committee. In all Legislative bodies, when standing or special committees are appointed, the individual first named is considered as the chairman, although, according to Parliamentary usage, each committee has a right to elect its own chairman. This right, however, is seldom, if ever, exercised. In some Societies the by-laws provide for the appointment of chairmen of committees in this manner, and in many instances the efficiency of a committee is thereby increased.
In the Senate of the United States the members elect the standing committees, first balloting for a chairman of each, and afterwards for the balance of the requisite number. In the House of Representatives, committees are sometimes chosen by ballot, and in that case the rule is, that if a sufficient number are not chosen, by a majority of votes, on the first ballot, a second ballot is taken in which a plurality of votes prevail. In case a greater number than is required shall have an equal number of votes, the house proceeds to a further ballot or ballots.
In Congress, any member may excuse himself from serving on any committee, at the time of his appointment, if he is then a member of two other committees.
The object of committees is to consider some particular subject or subjects; to gain information; to digest certain business, and place it in a shape suitable for the action of the Society, or to attend to some details of business in which the whole Society, as a body, cannot conveniently act. Committees are required, by Parliamentary usage, to meet and attend to the matters assigned them with system and regularity, and not by separate consultation, or in a loose and indefinite manner.*
In appointing committees, those who take exceptions to some particulars in the matter proposed to be examined, may be of the committee, but none who speak directly against the whole matter. "For," as Hat-sell justly remarks, "he that would totally destroy will not amend it. The child is not to be put to a nurse who cares not for it." It is therefore a constant rule that no man is to be employed in any matter who has declared himself against it. And when any member who is against the bill, hears himself named, he ought to ask to be excused.*
* Should a committee not make report in due season, on any matter committed to them, they may be instructed to report at a certain time, or they may, on motion, be discharged from the further consideration of the subject, and then the matter may be taken up in the Society.
The rules of Parliament allow any member to be present at the sittings of a select committee, but he cannot vote, and must give place to all the committee, and sit below them.
Standing committees are those which continue from year to year ; Special committees are raised from time to time, and are discharged, on motion, when they have made a final report.
* This rule, though undoubtedly a good one, is not very closely adhered to, either in Congress or in our State Legislature.