Congressional Commissions: Overview, Structure, and Legislative Considerations [January 22, 2013] [open pdf - 371KB]
"Congressional advisory commissions are formal groups established to provide independent advice; make recommendations for changes in public policy; study or investigate a particular problem, issue, or event; or perform a duty. While no legal definition exists for what constitutes a 'congressional commission,' in this report a congressional commission is defined as a multi-member independent entity that (1) is established by Congress, (2) exists temporarily, (3) serves in an advisory capacity, (4) is appointed in part or whole by Members of Congress, and (5) reports to Congress. These five characteristics differentiate a congressional commission from a presidential commission, an executive branch commission, or other bodies with 'commission' in their names. Over 90 congressional commissions have been established since 1989. […] This report provides an overview and analysis of congressional advisory commissions, information on the general statutory structure of a congressional commission, and a catalog of congressional commissions created since the 101st Congress."
CRS Report for Congress, R40076