Here at WashingtonWatch.com, we’re constantly working to open new windows onto Washington, D.C. And this week, we open a window called: Agencies!
The agencies in the executive branch carry out the will of Congress and the president.
The bills in Congress often direct government policy by talking about agencies, by telling them what to do, and even by changing their legal charters.
If you want to know what a member of Congress or senator is interested in, another way to find out is by looking at the agencies they’re writing bills about. And if you want to know who is doing what with the policies you care about, look at who is legislating about the relevant agencies.
Think the Department of Homeland Security is too intrusive? Not intrusive enough? (Or just right?) Take a look at the Department of Homeland Security’s page. See who is introducing bills about DHS, and which committee consider those bills. You can also see what the bureaus within the DHS are.
On the agencies homepage, we list the agencies that have been visited the most this week, so you can see what other people are interested in. You can also pore over an alphabetical list of agencies, a list of the agencies affected by the most bills, and the agencies appearing in the most recent bills.
Agency information can also be found on bill pages, representatives pages, and committee pages. So you can see which agencies bills affect, what representatives are writing bills about what agencies, and what committees are considering bills about what agencies.
Nothing’s simple, so here’s some explaining about agencies: We use the word “agencies” to refer to all the organizational units of government. Sure, the Department of Health and Human Services is an agency, and so is the Social Security Administration. But we also treat the Legislative Branch and Judicial Branch as agencies.
The federal government doesn’t actually have an authoritative organization chart. (That’s shocking so let’s repeat it: there is no one federal government organization chart.) There are many different versions of who does what, and we had to use one of them (it’s here), so you’ll find some small and obscure governmental organizations that are treated as agencies, like the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation and the Marine Mammal Commission.
We also only have the top two layers of the bureaucracy: agencies and bureaus. If we had our way, we’d have two more layers, programs and projects, but that thing about there being no federal government organization chart stands in our way.
Play around with agencies! You can look up your favorites, or go look on the pages for your member of Congress or senators and see what agencies their bills would affect. Or, click on a bill one of your representatives has introduced and see what agencies it would affect.
If you have a favorite agency, look and see what members are writing bills to affect it, or what committees are considering bills that affect it.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll understand just a bit better how our government works. You’ll be that much better prepared to take control of what goes on in Washington, D.C.
Good for you! You’re doing your homework, just by visitng WashingtonWatch.com! And by looking into … agencies.