Creation of Executive Departments: Highlights from the Legislative History of Modern Precedents [Updated July 30, 2002] [open pdf - 66KB]
"Congress is now considering proposals to create a Department of Homeland Security. Since World War II, Congress has created or implemented major reorganizations of seven of the now existing 14 Cabinet departments. This report describes the principal elements of legislative process that established the Departments of Defense; Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) (now, in part, Health and Human Services); Housing and Urban Development; Transportation; Energy; Education; and Veterans Affairs. Congressional consideration of legislation establishing Cabinet departments has generally exhibited certain common procedural elements. In each case, successful congressional action was preceded by a presidential endorsement, the submission of draft legislation, or, in one instance, a reorganization plan by the President. [...] Votes in committee and on final passage were generally by comfortable majorities. An exception was the House consideration of the Department of Education bill (H.R. 2444, 96th Congress), which cleared committee by a single vote and passed the House by a four-vote margin. Finally, with the exception of the joint resolution approving the Department of HEW reorganization plan, all the legislation went to conference to resolve differences between House and Senate versions. With two exceptions, conferees were drawn from the reporting committees. House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee members joined the conference on the Department of Veterans Affairs legislation, and members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee served on the Energy Department conference."
CRS Report for Congress, RL31497