Visualization: The Math (and Politics) of House Subcommittees


The House is split 51-49, but relative Republican control increases as you move down to the committee and subcommittee level.

Some might say that is an example of how the party in power uses the committee system to assert its control. But there is another powerful force also at work: mathematics.

With the House almost evenly split, there is no mathematical formula that will maintain a strict 51:49 proportionality as you organize members into smaller groups. 

No matter how you cut it, a slim majority always means the majority party will end up with a higher percentage of seats on committees and a then even higher percentage than that on subcommittees.

The chart below shows how the math would work in appoximating a 51:49 split on 21-member committees (11-R, 10-D) and seven-member subcommittees (4-R, 3-D):


Of course, committee assignments are more than a math exercise. By tradition, the party in power has the prerogative to structure committees in a way it sees fit. 

This year, House Speaker Kirk Cox set up most panels with an even number of members, which results in a two-person GOP majority on each committee and subcommittee. For example, most committees have 22 seats -- 12-R, 10-D. 

Here are the 2018 House partisan splits, on average:

Feb. 7, 2018

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