In addition to its responsibility for passing new laws, Congress must also keep watch over the administration of existing laws. Through this oversight function, Congress is able to monitor existing policies and programs to see if agencies are carrying them out as Congress intended. Oversight occurs in a variety of ways, including hearings, formal reports, and informal contacts between congressional and agency personnel. Since the 1970s, Congress has increased its oversight over the executive branch. Generally, it has done so in an effort to find ways to make programs run better; sometimes it tends to become involved in petty details, making itself vulnerable to the charge of micromanagement.
Reliance on a committee system decentralizes power and makes American democracy more pluralistic, yet there is a majoritarian aspect as well, since most committees approximate the general profile of the parties’ congressional membership, and legislation must still receive a majority vote in each house before becoming law.