Federal Election Commission: Membership and Policymaking Quorum, In Brief

Source: R. Sam Garrett, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R45160, April 12, 2018

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is the nation’s civil campaign finance regulator. The agency ensures that campaign fundraising and spending is publicly reported; that those regulated by the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and by commission regulations comply and have access to guidance; and that publicly financed presidential campaigns receive funding.

FECA requires that at least four of six commissioners agree to undertake many of the agency’s key policymaking duties. As of this writing, the FEC is operating with four commissioners instead of six. Others reportedly are considering leaving the agency. One nomination to the FEC has been resubmitted during the 115th Congress; no committee or floor action has been taken on it to date.

It is entirely possible that the FEC will retain at least four commissioners and that the agency will remain able to carry out all its duties. If, however, the FEC loses its policymaking quorum—as happened for six months in 2008—the agency will be unable to hold hearings, issue rules, and enforce campaign finance law and regulation. This CRS report briefly explains the kinds of actions that FECA would preclude if the commission lost its policymaking quorum.

This report will be updated in the event of significant changes in the agency’s policymaking quorum or the status of agency nominations….