Congressional Government Rebooted: Randomized Committee Assignments & Legislative Capacity

34 Pages Posted: 28 May 2012 Last revised: 6 Jan 2015

Brian D. Feinstein

University of Chicago Law School

Date Written: 2013


Congress’s stature and relative role in governance are in the midst of a long-term decline. To mitigate this trend, this article proposes a novel change to the branch’s institutional design: replacing the current committee assignment system with the random assignment of members to committees. I argue that this reform would greatly enhance Congress’s internal capacity, altering the roles that party organizations, expert or deliberative committees, interest groups, and political minorities play in the policymaking process. Random committee assignment could also impact Congress-Court dynamics, encouraging greater use of legislative history in statutory interpretation and promoting a more deferential judicial posture in assessing the constitutionality of statutes. Finally, random assignment could facilitate greater congressional involvement in administration, particularly concerning committee oversight of executive agencies and use of the post-Chadha legislative veto.

Keywords: institutional design, separation of powers, committees, Congress, statutory interpretation, legislative history, legislative intent, soft law

Suggested Citation

Feinstein, Brian D., Congressional Government Rebooted: Randomized Committee Assignments & Legislative Capacity (2013). Harvard Law & Policy Review, vol. 7, pp. 601-634, 2013. Available at SSRN: or

Brian D. Feinstein (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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