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Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee

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Jack Ryan: Who authorized this?
Ritter: I'm sure they'll ask you that.
Jack Ryan: Who authorized it?
Ritter: "I have no recollection, Senator."

The United States Congress is one of the most powerful legislative bodies in the world. It has an oversight capacity that is quite simply huge and investigates pretty much every aspect of American government policy through a system of permanent and ad-hoc committees. These committees have the power to issue subpoenas and compel relevant officials to testify under oath. While most often rather boring and tedious for most involved, at times they've become high political theater, with some instances (HUAC, Watergate) becoming etched in modern history. Of course the members of the committee have a tendency to act like every last one of these committees is of the utmost importance.

Thus if they are at all connected to the government, our heroes can count on having to answer to Congress at some point or another for their actions. While matters such as government corruption, terrorism, or military operations are close to Truth in Television, you more likely will see congressional oversight committees dealing with everything from the undead to alien species.

Even when not in play directly, this trope may affect a work, as the bosses try to avert being hauled in for a hearing by sweet-talking some senator or representative. Most often the chair of the committee in question. So this is why you see a senator getting a guided tour of the Elaborate Underground Base. Just make sure the committee's head isn't in bed with a high-ranking executive of the company they are meant to be investigating. Or otherwise working with the villains.

Despite the name, this trope also covers investigations carried out by other legislatures, real or fictional. For example, the British Parliament has permanent Select Committees that investigate certain areas, including public accounts, hence this page's use of the committee hearing from Skyfall as the heading image. Some examples might not even be legislatures, as long as they concern the nominal governing body with a committee.

For obvious reasons, this is mostly an American and British trope, due to the way The Common Law works, something that it's very difficult to replicate in other legal systems.


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  • One of the later Diet Pepsi commercials featuring Ray Charles saw him and the Raylettes in front of a subcommittee trying to figure out what the "secret ingredient" is that gave Diet Pepsi an unfair advantage. The only answer given is "Uh-huh!"

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Yang Wen-li is dragged into an Inquiry committee by the Free Planets Alliance's High Council without any legal basis, ostensibly over his actions during the civil war and his personality. In practice, it's an excuse by the Council to discredit him, fearing his growing influence at the expense of doing their own jobs. Yang, however, sees through the pretensions and grills them in turn, even threatening to resign if not for the Empire's invasion.

    Card Games 
  • In Super Munchkin, one of the curse cards ("traps" in Super Munchkin's terminology) is a congressional hearing, which is rather costly on the victim.

    Comic Books 
  • Steve Rogers (Captain America) faces the Committee on Super Human Activities, who demand that he work only for them since the U.S. government legally owns the CA identity. He quits instead. (And his replacement, John Walker, is such a jerk, he nearly ruins the reputation of Captain America; still, Walker later becomes a somewhat decent hero as U.S. Agent.)
  • Tony Stark (Iron Man) faces a senate committee himself in a 1960s story and the questioning proves so long and arduous that Stark collapses on the stand. When an attending doctor opens Stark's shirt, he finds his chestplate/external pacemaker and it is finally exposed to the world that the tycoon is a very sick man.
  • Watchmen: Several of the original Minutemen are dragged in front of the (once-real) House Un-American Activities Committee. Hooded Justice refuses to participate and vanishes without a trace. To the story's modern day (1985) nobody knows who he was. The prequel, Before Watchmen, eventually reveals he was framed for several crimes by The Comedian and killed in battle with the other Minutemen.
  • The Justice Society of America (the Justice League's predecessors) were called before a committee and accused of being Communist sympathizers. Depending on the continuity, this may have been the actual Senator McCarthy or a substitute. They chose to disband and retire rather than comply with the new Super Registration Act. Later, we get to see an alternate universe where the JSA did sign up. (It didn't end well.)
    • In a tie-in with Infinite Crisis, Superman gets to experience this moment during something of a "Freaky Friday" Flip with his Earth-2 counterpart Kal-L. Where the other Society members refuse to reveal their identities, Superman does and states that he's ashamed to be an American because it got this far.
  • In the miniseries Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, Hanna-Barbera character Snagglepuss is re-envisioned as a closeted gay playwright during the '50s (essentially Tennessee Williams). In the first pages of the book, he is being grilled by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and clearly not taking it seriously at all. When asked if he was a member of the Communist Party he replies, "Lord of heaven, no! I don't even go to parties anymore!" He's called in again during the climax of the story, with the committee now planning to fully ruin him. They succeed, but not before he gives them all a "The Reason You Suck" Speech on how they're ruining America in their attempt to protect it.
  • In Dastardly & Muttley, General Harrier gets hauled before a Senate committee in order to explain his part in the chaos surrounding the Unstabilium.

    Comic Strips 
  • This happened to Rat in a Pearls Before Swine arc when he marketed a "weight loss method" that consisted of climbing into a cardboard box and remaining inside until they lost weight.
  • Also happened to Opus in Bloom County; he ends up literally getting labelled a liberal (multiple times...)
  • A classic Doonesbury arc, way back in Vietnam War days, had soldier B.D.'s friend (and Viet Cong terrorist — It Makes Sense in Context) Phred organizing Congressional testimony by Vietnamese villagers.

    Fan Works 
  • Evangelion 303: The Black Project Evangelion is overseen by a Senate committee. Gendo and Fuyutsuki often appear before the committee to report about the progress and state of the project, answer queries or assuage concerns, since the committee's members are always complaining about funding, the state of the program… and some of them would love an excuse for shutting it down (although to be fair, their concerns are not without merit).
  • At the end of Book 1 of Event Horizon: Storm of Magic, The Company™ is made to appear before the U.N. Security Council and justify their actions in helping cause a civil war in Westeros.
  • HERZ: Misato often has to appear before committees and general councils to argue about –and often against- using HERZ’s Evangelions in a war. In a chapter, she talked before a committee to dissuade them from using Unit 01 in the Congo crisis.
  • Once More with Feeling: After Shinji and Asuka engaged the Sixth Angel and that battle resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and the sinking of dozens of warships, one of the members of Seele was dragged before the US Senate on no fewer than four occasions to answer some heated questions.
  • The second half of Book Four of RealityCheck's Nyxverse series Alicornundrum has Equestria placed on trial by the Council of Celestial Stewards for the actions of Nyx in causing Night Eternal to last for several weeks over Equestria, and subsequently causing trouble in other parts of the world because of the Sun constantly hanging over them at that same time. All of the Princesses are brought before the Council to answer for what happened and to try finding a way to properly solve this issue.
  • RWBY: Destiny of Remnant: In Chapter 27's flashbacks, Headmaster Ozpin was hauled before the Vale Council to answer for the events that had happened in Volumes 1 - 3.
  • In Origins, the director of the Republic Intelligence Service is called to testify before a closed session of the Intelligence Committee. He tells them very little, much to the chagrin of the politicians involved.
  • Shinji And Warhammer 40 K: In chapter 22, the main characters have to come before a government committee to explain what happened in Tokyo-3 during the attack of Matarael.
  • This is Harry's main concern at the beginning of Broken Souls, as a dead German national on British soil is sure to stir up trouble. When it spirals into a Government Conspiracy things get even worse.
  • Halloween Unspectacular: In the story "Controlling the Superman" from the tenth edition, Vlad is summoned before a senate committee to explain the recent actions of a group of superheroes he represents, whom have recently started acting in a Knight Templar manner, unilaterally killing criminals without any care for innocent people caught in the crossfire. Vlad callously dismisses the casualties as collateral damage, presents the superhumans as superior to the government, and ultimately kills most of the committee to make a point.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Clear and Present Danger (as seen in the page quote), Ritter explains to Jack Ryan exactly what his answers will be if/when Ritter finds himself Hauled Before A Senate SubCommittee. At the end of the film, Jack goes before a subcommittee to report on the events of the movie. Of course, Ritter's "Get Out of Jail Free" Card is signed by the person who authorized it, so he pretty much has to name who was responsible if he wants to stay out of jail.
  • Dumb Money: In the last act of the film, Keith, Gabe, Ken, and Vlad are all subpoenaed by the House of Representatives to testify about the GameStop short squeeze. The members of Congress in question are all played by Stock Footage from the real-life hearings.
  • Lt. Col. Devoe's Establishing Character Moment in The Peacemaker is him explaining to a subcommittee how the SUV in his expense report was vital in securing some surplus chemical weapons from the black market.
  • The Senate Committee on Organized Crime plays a huge role in The Godfather Part II. One of Michael's former Capos threatens to go state's evidence, until Michael brings his Italian brother to watch, which shames the Capo enough that he not only recants his testimony in public, he commits suicide. As an added bonus, they frame a Senator for killing a hooker, and that same Senator stands up and gives a hilariously over-the-top speech about the contributions of Italian-Americans. Another senator on the committee is reportedly taking bribes from one of Michael's rival crime lords.
  • Dick Goodwin, one of the main characters of Quiz Show (Very Loosely Based on a True Story) is a young lawyer with a House oversight committee who cajoles his boss into investigating rigged TV game shows. The congressional hearings are the setting for the Charles Van Doren's confession that he's been cheating at the climax of the film and for Herbert Stempel's attempts to vindicate himself by exposing the network. It ends up being as much about the flaws in the system as anything, illustrated by details like the head of the committee covering his microphone to reminisce with the network president about the last time they went golfing together before calling him to testify.
  • Timecop has a Senate Committee arranging congressional oversight on Time Travel.
  • In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark is facing down a senate subcommittee because his Iron Man suit isn't being shared with the United States government (and the minor detail of him being an unstable billionaire with unrestricted access to a superweapon), which they see as a big no-no. They order Stark to hand it over. Tony says no, saying that because he is Iron Man and "the suit and [he] are one", doing so is akin to indentured servitude and/or prostitution. As it turns out, he has already built a suit specifically for his best friend Col. James Rhodes (Air Force liaison to Stark Industries) , so it's more of a matter of principle than any lack of goodwill. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it's revealed that one of the committee members is also loyal to HYDRA.
  • The Return of Captain Invincible: Captain Invincible is called before the House Un-American Activities Committee to answer charges of Communist sympathies (based upon the fact he provided super-powered air support for the invading armies' march on Berlin- and the Russian forces were closer to Berlin than the US/UK), impersonating an officer of the United States Armed Forces (as there was no record of him receiving a captaincy or even a commission in any service), and showing his Underwear of Power in public.
  • The Pentagon Wars uses this trope as a framing device. The general in charge of the development of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle squirms under the interrogation of a House subcommittee while flashbacks reveal what a disaster it was.
  • At the end of The Bourne Identity, Ward Abbott goes before a subcommittee to tie off Operation Treadstone. After Abbott finishes testifying about Treadstone, he begins briefing the committee on Blackbriar... This receives a Call-Back at the end of its second sequel, The Bourne Ultimatum, as Pamela Landy goes before a subcommittee to blow the whistle on Operation Blackbriar.
  • Both Public Enemies and J. Edgar dramatize J. Edgar Hoover's testimony before the Senate's McKellar Committee in 1936.
  • M in Skyfall is required to testify before a Defence Ministry hearing about MI6's effectiveness. It's rendered moot when Silva and his henchmen attack the hearing and M is eventually killed before they come to any decision.
  • In Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the title character has to appear before the Senate ethics committee when he is the victim of Taylor's character assassination campaign.
  • In Public Enemies, J. Edgar Hoover's first scene is in a budget subcommittee hearing where he is requesting a doubling of the Bureau of Investigation's budget.
  • TunnelVision is set entirely during one regarding the eponymous first uncensored network in the US; however, the bulk of the film concentrates on a screening of the selection of Tunnelvision programming on a randomly-selected day during said hearing.
  • Because of her actions in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Natasha Romanoff is brought in for questioning by a Senate sub-committee. They try to grill her for an explanation but she simply shrugs it off and says they're free to throw her in jail but it won't change what the world already knows. Really they have a lot more to answer for than she does.
  • In G.I. Jane, O'Neill threatens Senator DeHaven with this during a conversation they have after O'Neill learns that DeHaven was the one behind the attempts to get her kicked out of the Navy.
    O'Neill: If I have to ask anyone again, Senator, I'll be asking on C-SPAN.
  • In Advise & Consent, Robert Leffingwell, the nominee for Secretary of State is grilled intensely by a Senate committee over his alleged Communist sympathies. The hearing climaxes with a Surprise Witness testifying about Leffingwell's connections to a left-wing organization.
  • Hoffa dramatizes Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa's testimony before the Senate Rackets Committee, and his feud with Bobby Kennedy in particular.
  • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Senator June Finch summons Superman to a Congressional hearing to discuss whether he's a threat or not and whether he is responsible for the destruction caused in his fight with Zod and his intervention in a hostage crisis in the film’s opening. Bonus points for featuring an actual sitting U.S. Senator, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who had previously made cameos in Batman & Robin and The Dark Knight. During the hearing, Lex Luthor blows up the building, killing everyone inside but Clark, sending him into a Heroic BSoD and making the public more suspicious of the Man of Steel.
  • RoboCop (2014): Raymond Sellars, CEO of Omnicorp, is introduced speaking before a senate subcommittee regarding his plans to bring robots to American law enforcement.
  • Near the beginning of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), senior members of Monarch are called before a congressional committee to explain why their organization's activities should be kept secret, and why the military shouldn't just hunt down and kill all the Titans.
  • In What's the Worst That Could Happen?, Max is called before a Senate hearing. Kevin and Berger follow Max to Washington to try and rob Max's apartment. There, Kevin learns that Max intends to secretly bribe the senators, and replaces the bribe money with insulting notes in Max's name. While Max later addresses the Senate Committee he gets a call from Kevin who tells him that if Max will give him his ring back he will give him back his. Max refuses and proceeds to repeatedly curse at Kevin. To the senators, and other viewers, it appears he is speaking to them, with the result being that the hearing ends very badly for Max.
  • One of the earliest examples is 1943's Government Girl, which oddly enough is a romantic comedy. Elizabeth "Smokey" Alland is a secretary who falls in love with her boss Ed, a Detroit auto exec brought to Washington to oversee wartime production of bombers. When Ed's conduct in appropriating a shipment of steel to build a factory results in him being hauled before a Senate subcommittee, Smokey gives a Rousing Speech in which she tells the senators that Ed did what he had to do as part of the war effort to crush the Axis.
  • Deep Cover: After Russell deals a crippling blow to the Gallegos cartel and implicates Mexican diplomat Hector Guzman as a high-level drug trafficker, he is brought before a House Judiciary Committee hearing to report his findings to the public representatives. When Guzman's crimes are brought to light, several members demand that the evidence be destroyed, as it will inevitably embarass the current administration and possibly hurt US-Mexico relations. Russell had anticipated this, and distributed copies to the press beforehand.
  • Miss Sloane: Sloane ends up being investigated for corruption and grilled in a Senate hearing. It turns out she'd engineered it all though to bring down her opponents.

  • Bob Lee Swagger: In Targeted, Bob Lee is hauled before a subcommittee investigating the use of force against terrorists. It's portrayed as an utterly cynical re-election ploy by several Smug Snake Straw Liberals.
  • Most of the plot of Kitty Goes to Washington, the second book of the series. In the first book, the Masquerade was broken, revealing the existence of vampires and werewolves to the general public, in large part by Kitty herself. In the second book, the Senate wants details straight from the source.
  • In a Brad Thor novel, a conniving Democratic senator tries to get Scot Harvath up before one of these, just so she can humiliate the President and get herself into the Presidency. She nearly succeeds due to her having an affair with a CIA member who gives her all the classified info. Fortunately, she gets caught and is forced from office while her little source of info gets a hefty jail sentence.
  • In the Wild Cards books, the Red Scare of The '50s was supplemented by a fear of super-powered Aces, resulting in the Senate Committee on Ace Resources and Activities (SCARE). The committee's ruthless attacks on Aces parallel McCarthyism.
  • Gets referenced several times throughout The Laundry Files in relation to the British government, because the protagonists work for a beyond-top-secret intelligence agency tasked with upholding a lovecraftian Masquerade, any breach of which would almost certainly lead to mass civilian casualties and very uncomfortable questions being asked in the aftermath.
  • City of Light: Ravidel Shand is called to answer (false) charges before the senate of Palidia. So are the main characters at a later date.
  • Ben Safford Mysteries: Congressman Ben Safford isn't on every committee investigating wrongdoing in the series, but when he is, and he tends to play a more active role in solving the mystery, but he does sit through some interesting proceedings. He sits on a committee uncovering the mechanisms of institutional Medicare fraud in The Attending Physician (at one point, it's being interrupted by a process server telling the testifying doctor that he's being sued), and is chagrined when the scandal reaches his hometown. In Epitaph for a Lobbyist, his committee tries to figure out which congressman a murdered lobbyist bribed to rig a vote.
  • When Women Were Dragons: Alex's personal narrative is interspersed with transcripts of Dr. Gantz as he defends himself and his research in front of HUAC.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24:
    • Jack Bauer appears before a Senate Committee at the beginning of Day Seven.
    • In the Expanded Universe, David Palmer used his influence in such a sub-committee to authorise "Operation Nightfall". A House Committee investigated the events of Day One and the report was "leaked" to form a book called 24: The Official Investigation.
  • The Unit
  • JAG. The first Secretary of the Navy in the series, Alexander Nelson, gets called before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to answer for his unauthorized intelligence activities carried out by JAG lawyers and not by intelligence professionals. Ironically enough, the Chairman of the Committee, Edward Sheffield, ends up becoming his successor.
  • Airwolf has Archangel showing the eponymous chopper to a congressional demonstration when Dr. Moffett steals it, killing several people and blinding Archangel in one eye.
  • Stargate SG-1: Senator Kinsey, who chairs the committee that sets the SGC's budget. A later episode has Hammond figure out why Kinsey is pushing for the Stargate to be handed over to the NID when he learns he's moved to the committee that directly controls that.
    • Later episodes include other instances, including one involving a subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations before which General Landry and Vala Mal Doran appear. Vala accuses the chairman of the Committee of Compensating for Something; Landry is not amused.
  • The West Wing has several arcs where Josh, Leo, and almost every other character were dragged to testify before a committee or another.
    • From the episode Ways and Means:
      C.J.: Leo, we need to be investigated by someone who wants to kill us just to watch us die. We need someone perceived by the American people to be irresponsible, untrustworthy, partisan, ambitious, and thirsty for the limelight. Am I crazy or is this not a job for the U.S. House of Representatives?
  • Wiseguy. Happens twice to Vinnie Terranova, first to report on the CIA's use of Arms Dealer Mel Profitt to take over a communist nation, then when he was used as the scapegoat for a Government Conspiracy to ruin the Japanese economy with counterfeit yen. As the senator who cross-examined him on the first occasion turned out to be involved in the second conspiracy, it was definitely a case of "I'm sure they'll ask you that."
  • Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister both occasionally called for Hacker or Sir Humphrey to be called before a Select Committee of Parliament, where their stories would frequently do one another no good. On the other hand, the one time they showed up together, it was apparently a victory for the both of them.
    • The UK also has "public inquiries". In one episode of Yes, Prime Minister Sir Humphrey told Hacker there would be a public inquiry into recent leaks. Hacker replied, "I don't want a public inquiry! I want to find out who's responsible!"
  • Dollhouse features a US Senator, Daniel Perrin, who is investigating Rossum Corporation and plans to use Mellie (the former "November") as a star witness. Worried that his attractive blonde wife is in fact an Active, Paul Ballard goes over to their house and uses a device that renders Actives highly dazed and gives them nosebleeds. It has no effect on her, but then the horrible truth is revealed... the senator is the Active.
  • In The X-Files two-part episode "Tunguska" and "Terma," Agent Scully is forced to testify before a Senate committee about the death of a diplomat who'd been carrying black oil in a diplomatic pouch. When she refuses to disclose Agent Mulder's whereabouts, she's briefly jailed for contempt. Needless to say perhaps, the committee's chairman is connected to the Syndicate.
  • One episode of Quantum Leap ("Honeymoon Express") revolves around Al being called before a subcommittee to account for the doings of Project Quantum Leap. The committee is incredulous at his testimony at first and threatens to cut off their funding, so Al tries to get Sam to do something in the past that will show that he's actually back there and they're not just lying to get funding. Turns out in the leap Sam is in, he helped a young woman gain confidence to become a lawyer and later run for congress. This causes the Hanging Senator chairing the hearing to suddenly be replaced by a future version of the woman Sam helped, who approves more funding for the project.
  • In the first episode of Fringe season 2 (A New Day in the Old Town), Broyles is called to Washington to appear before a Senate subcommittee. They tell him that the lack of definitive results produced by the Fringe Division is unacceptable, and are poised to shut the division down until Peter gives them a broken shapeshifting device used by the shapeshifter who killed Charlie. Subverted across most of the rest of the series where over-seeing Senators, and pretty much all other authority figures, are almost refreshingly reasonable. At one point in Season 4 Agent Broyles even volunteers to turn a world-changing decision over to the relevant committee, only for them to hand it right back to the joint Fringe Team/Division experts. At the end of the series Broyles is hauled before the Senator . . . who blandly congratulates him on a job well done and pours resources on him.
  • This happened to the FYI crew in an episode of Murphy Brown.
  • 30 Rock has Jack Donaghy brought before House committees to defend NBC's commitment to diversity and later the takeover by Kabletown.
  • "The Rundown Job" on Leverage starts with a colonel before a congressional committee about teams he's put together to take care of various threats, but which crossed agency lines without authorization. He's warned not to do it again, and so when a terrorist threat against Washington, D.C. comes up, he turns to the Leverage team to handle it.
  • Due to the fallout from the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode opens with Maria Hill just exiting a Congressional hearing, talking on the phone with her new boss, Pepper Potts before being drawn into a confrontational discussion with Melinda May.
  • The last season of The Thick of It culminated in an inquiry on the culture of leaking in government, leading to Malcolm Tucker's downfall
  • "Testimony", the penultimate episode of Veep's fourth season, is told in Scrapbook Story style through recorded legal depositions and C-SPAN segments of Selina's crew in front of a congress hearing, shuffling the blame around for a government data breach that's been season's Plot Arc.
  • Episode "Apollo 1" in From the Earth to the Moon dramatizes the Senate hearings into the launch pad fire that killed Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. The main prosecutor, Senator Walter Mondale, is shown to have a nuanced opposition to the Apollo program, but astronaut Frank Borman's testimony at the end is shown as instrumental in convincing the committee to let it continue, ending with "I think you should stop this witch hunt and let us go to the Moon."
  • BrainDead: Learning that his sister is being subjected to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques for information on alleged terrorism, Luke Healy attempts to contact the FBI director to get him to release Laurel. When the director denies holding Laurel, Luke uses his power to summon the director to an impromptu meeting of the intelligence committee.
  • Episode 7 of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey depicts Clair Patterson, the man who uncovered the lead pollution crisis while calculating the age of the Earth, setting off one of these by sending papers on papers to various officials. One senator takes note and convenes hearings, and the scene cuts between the dueling testimony of Patterson and the "industry expert" Robert Kehoe. Patterson's evidence won out.
  • The Good Detective: Yoo Jeong-ryeol and Oh Jong-tae are both hauled before a government committee where they are grilled over the former, a government minister, granting the latter, a very shady businessman, a lucrative real estate contract.
  • In one episode of Jake 2.0, Jake and his team are brought to the NSA's emergency inquiry board over the theft of a classified biological weapon. However, Jake is disgusted when the inquiry's real aim is to make Angela Hamilton, the actual thief who only stole the biological weapon to trick and get revenge against the man who used said weapon on her family, as a scapegoat and send her to a foreign prison to cover up the US's involvement of selling biological weapons to their allies. In the end, Jake blackmails the inquiry to free Angela on the threat of sending the board's inquiry transcription to the press using his nanites.
  • Played with repeatedly in Government Procedural Korean series Chief of Staff. Corrupt Corporate Executive Kim Hyeon-soo of Bugang Electronics is hauled before a committee in Ep. 1.2...but committee chairman Assemblyman Jo is a Corrupt Politician in Bugang's pocket, and he disallows questions. Honest politician Seon-yeong, also on the committee, has to figure out how she can around this. In a later episode, the Minister of Justice has to testify before the audit committee, and when he's caught in a lie, his position opens up for Song Hee-seop, who is even more corrupt.
  • There's several of these in Alias: in one instance, various characters are called to a committee convened after Irina Derevko, former leader of one of the series' many nebulous evil organizations, seemingly broke her arrangement with the government; in another, series Big Bad Arvin Sloane was called before a committee for the same reason. In both cases, the characters are able to escape punishment thanks to behind-the-scenes extortion by other parties.
  • Plays a climactic role Nikita, as Nikita herself is called before a Senate committee to give her account of her role in the U.S. president's assassination and subsequent rescue (it's complicated, hence the committee) and essentially her entire life as an assassin. However, this is ultimately more theater than anything: the Senate had privately obtained a more unvarnished version of the truth some days earlier, and what Nikita is there to do is sell a palatable version of it to the public. Ultimately, it works out for Nikita, as she is able to relate what she considers to be the shameful truth of her circumstances to the world at large, only to find that the bulk of the public considers her good and heroic regardless of her history.

  • Mentioned by Dave Barry in a column about kid's toys.
    The little boy on your list can have hours of carefree childhood fun with this G.I. Joe set, engaging in realistic armed-forces adventures such as having G.I. Joe explain to little balding congressional committee figures how come he had to use his optional Action Shredder accessory.

  • In The Complete History Of America Abridged, Lucy Ricardo tells Spade Diamond she's worried because a government committee is out to investigate Ricky: "We think it's because he's Cuban and there's this Cold War on. Waahh!!" Spade tells Lucy that they'll let Ricky go if she gives them a scapegoat. Lucy decides that she'll name her landlords, Fred and Ethel Rosenberg.

    Video Games 
  • The victim of the first contract in Hitman: Blood Money. The Swing King was a local celebrity and entrepreneur throughout the '80s and '90s until a Ferris wheel in his park collapsed due to negligence and killed 36 people. Swing King went to court but was cleared of all charges. However, the accident cost him his reputation, his fortune, and his trophy wife as a result.
  • One of these is a Framing Device for Mafia III (the other is a documentary) where a senate committee interrogates John Donovan over his aiding Lincoln Clay in his gang war. Except that this is what Donovan wants so that he can murder a senator for his part in Kennedy's assassination, which is also why he orchestrated the events of the game.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The Citadel Council periodically tries to do this once you start working for them in the first game. Since you're in your badass spaceship on the other side of the galaxy, though, you can just hang up on them if they start giving you trouble (and they will start giving you trouble).
    • Mass Effect 3 opens with Commander Shepard in lockdown for their actions during Mass Effect 2. These include working with a terrorist group and (if the last DLC mission was purchased) destroying an entire batarian star system for the purposes of delaying the invasion of genocidal Abusive Precursors. By the time the actual "tribunal" rolls around, however, said invasion is well underway and the Committee spends what screentime they have begging Shepard for answers. Then a Reaper appears practically on top of them...
      Shepard: You brought me here to confirm what you already know. The Reapers are here.
  • In one of Cave Johnson's many Canned Orders over Loudspeaker messages in Portal 2, he mentions being dragged before one of these in 1968 regarding some astronauts who went "missing" in his employ.
  • The Trooper in Star Wars: The Old Republic has to answer questions from the Republic Senate's armed services committee at several points.
  • The third installment of Syphon Filter has the protagonists investigated by a Congressional committee hearing.
  • Supplemental material for Team Fortress 2 reveals that The Administrator, Miss Pauling, and Saxton Hale are subjected to this after Mann Co.'s attempt to launch a monkey into space for the government ends poorly. The Administrator stole the rocket's Australium fuel source for her own needs, and said needs (whose explanation is censored) apparently shock the Senators into letting her and her associates go unpunished.

    Western Animation 
  • A late episode of Animaniacs has Slappy, Skippy, and the Warners present at a congressional event where Reef Blunt of the Federal Television Agency celebrates the infamous E/I laws — Slappy says "we're ruined", and the Warners declare it to be the "end of civilization as we know it". To twist the knife further, Blunt makes Slappy tone down the violence in favor of assembling a non-violent "problem solver" machine. When Skippy comes home with a black eye from the school bully, Slappy wants Skippy to simply use a mallet on him. Skippy points out if they do that, they'll simply "get dragged into another congressional hearing".
  • This was the focus of an entire episode of Celebrity Deathmatch, which combined the elements of a Clip Show and a Take That! directed at several current members of Congress, including Ted Kennedy (who orchestrated the whole thing), Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Trent Lott, Orrin Hatch, Phil Gramm, Richard Shelby, and Strom Thurmond. Nick and Johnny were arguing about the show's violent content, and after the Senate actually ruled in their favor, Kennedy - who opposed that ruling - went nuts, beat the crap out of most of the rest of the Senate, and then got his ass kicked by Steve Austin. (It's a weird show.)
  • The Dilbert animated series has Dogbert persuading Congress to consolidate all holidays into a single holiday — Dogbert Day. It happens in the comic strip a few times too, namely when Dogbert becomes a Supreme Court nominee.

    Real Life 
  • Any large-scale administrative or governmental cock-up in a democratic society will almost invariably end up in front of one of these or their functional equivalent. Whether they're actually convened to deal with a problem, or simply an opportunity for the opposition to grandstand, is a crap shoot.
    • In non two-party democracies (e.g. Germany) the opposition parties will most likely blame it all on the government and the ruling party/ies will pretend nothing happened or at the very least they did nothing wrong. If both sides agree that something seriously has gone wrong, it most likely has.
  • The modern Trope Codifier in the United States is probably the House Un-American Activities Committee, whose hearings on alleged Communist infiltration of American government and society were widely televised and played a major role in shaping the Red Scare of the '40s and '50s.note  Notably, their investigations into Communist presence of Hollywood led to a great deal of attention, if only due to the well-known movie stars, directors and writers called to testify. More substantially, their hearings on State Department aide Alger Hiss for espionage proved a major career boost for Richard Nixon, then an obscure Congressman from California. Eventually in the 1960s, this committee called in the Yippies Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin and instantly regretted it with those two making a mockery of the proceeding and nothing the Committee could do could either stop or intimidate them.note 
    • The Senate's Kefauver and McClellan Committee hearings on organized crime in the '50s, which directly inspired the aforementioned scenes in The Godfather, Part II. While the hearings ostensibly focused on corruption in the labor movement and various industries, they just as often showed the inner workings and extent of the American mob, heretofore relatively unknown to the public at large (to the point where FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover denied the existence of the Mafia). As with HUAC's hearings on Communism, these investigations became also a major career springboard for several Senators involved, notably Estes Kefauver (who ran twice for president based largely on his fame as a "gang buster"), John F. Kennedy, his brother Bobby (who served as committee counsel and gained attention sparring with Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa), and Republican Senator Barry Goldwater, a later presidential nominee. It wasn't until local cops raided a Criminal Convention in 1957 that forced Congress and the FBI to investigate The Mafia and its involvement in labor racketeering just as they did with communism.
      • In 1963, after Joe Valachi became the first mobster to break the Mafia's code of silence and reveal its existence, omertà, Congressional hearings led by Senator John McClellan (D-AR) were held on organized crime activities across the United States. It exposed the Mafia through Valachi's televised testimony, who gave a good glimpse of its inner workings.
    • The Ervin Committee during the Watergate Scandal, a specially-appointed bipartisan committee of seven Senators. Its hearings unraveled key details of the Watergate cover-up, notably in the testimony of Nixon aides John Dean (who recounted Nixon's involvement in the cover-up in extreme, and damning detail) and Alexander Butterfield (who revealed the existence of the White House taping system). As with HUAC and the Kefauver hearings, they received near-constant coverage on television during the summer of 1973 and played a crucial role in focusing public attention on the scandal.
    • The Ur-Example is the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, formed during the Civil War. It was a thorn in the side of President Abraham Lincoln, being staffed with Radical Republicans who didn't think Lincoln was fighting the war aggressively enough.
    • The Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program was created during World War II, to investigate inefficiency and outright war profiteering that sprung from the massive increase in military spending. Unlike Lincoln, Roosevelt was able to make sure an ally (Harry S. Truman) was chair of the committee (thus resulting in it being better known as the Truman Committee), at least until stepping down to become Vice President. The committee continued for a few years even after the war ended, and most famously in 1947 Howard Hughes was called before the committee to explain why so much money had been spent on aircraft he'd designed that failed to materialize before the end of the war. Hughes managed to completely take control of the hearing, embarrassing chairman Ralph Brewster with accusations of corruption. This was likely the inspiration for Tony Stark's performance in the Iron Man 2 Senate hearing, seeing as Stark's characternote  is heavily based on Hughes.
  • The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and its equivalent, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
  • Happened to Colonel Stanislav Petrov after infamous near-miss with nuclear war in 1983. His being relieved of duty and placed on administrative leave is sometimes mistakenly interpreted as his being punished, but in fact the closest he came to that was a semi-formal reprimand for improperly recording the incident in his duty log. (The official reward he was promised by his CO never materialised either, but c'est la vie.) Regardless, the committee ultimately concluded that Petrov had acted properly and he was reinstated.
  • The UK has public inquiries, the UK equivalent. While it's often used for planning large-scale construction like highways, the more notable handle the same duties as the Senate Sub Committees, such as public transport disasters (most notably the sinking of the Titanic) or outbreaks of E-Coli. Perhaps most spectacular was the Leveson Inquiry, into News International'snote  culture of phone hacking and wider journalistic ethics. Since several celebrities and other public figures were hacked, they were called on to give evidence; everybody from J. K. Rowling to Hugh Grant to the parents of Madeline McCann. Of course, the biggest part of this inquiry was how it was the Creator Killer of News of the Worldnote .
  • Many fans of professional sports games that have teams in different states (baseball, football, etc.) wonder why the Senate (or House for that matter) would get involved in sports scandals, such as the steroid/HGH scandal in baseball in the mid-2000s. Since they make the rules (hey, it's supposed to be their job), they have determined that sports fall under their jurisdiction of "commerce across state lines." It is Congress who granted Major League Baseball an exemption for being a monopoly under the Sherman Anti-Trust (implicitly extended to the other major sports leagues in North America), but in return they tend to get more involved in the business side of those sports — the furor by Missouri Senator Stuart Symington over Charles Finley moving the Athletics franchise from Kansas City to Oakland in 1967, to the point of threatening to revoke MLB's exemption, was enough for the league to hastily add a new franchise in Kansas City (the Royals) to placate him.
  • After the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the U.S. and British governments both convened inquiries into what lead to the disaster. The Titanic survivors were called to testify before both and in the U.S., the inquiry was conducted by an actual Senate subcommittee. The findings of these inquiries would help codify modern maritime safety procedures to prevent such a disaster from ever happening again.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Oversight Committee


Tony Stark's Senate testimony

Tony Stark tells the Senate they can't have his Iron Man "prosthesis" and that he's privatized world peace.

How well does it match the trope?

4.76 (21 votes)

Example of:

Main / HauledBeforeASenateSubCommittee

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