The Atrophying of the Congressional Research Service’s Role in Supporting Committee Oversight

Funding, Staff, & Resources By Kevin R. Kosar January 2, 2024

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) in its current incarnation was established in 1970. Congress designed the nonpartisan agency to provide congressional committees with research capacity for oversight. CRS experts are supposed to identify issues for each new Congress to
address and help the committees carry out rigorous, lengthy inquiries into executive agencies’ activities.3 The agency closely assisted Congress in a myriad of major oversight efforts, including the Watergate investigation, the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act,
and the Iran-Contra affair.

Over time, CRS’ role in oversight declined due to various factors, most of which were out of its control. Congress changed. Congressional committees, particularly in the House of Representatives, lost capacity, and hyper-partisanism turned much oversight into political point-scoring rather than an exercise in governing that required expert assistance. CRS’
budget went flat, which fueled a steady decline in its staff count and capacity to assist Congress…. (Read more below.)


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