Lawmakers in the House this week will begin jockeying for top positions on key committees that oversee government operations, taxes, the federal intelligence community, and the ethics rules that govern the behavior of lawmakers.

Aside from the elected House and Senate leaders, committee chairmen are among the most important members of Congress because they have the power to drive the legislative agenda and hold the federal government accountable, particularly the executive branch.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., for example, used his perch as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to question and even subpoena the Obama administration repeatedly over its botched Fast and Furious gunrunning operation, the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service, and the government response to last year’s terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., helped drive the GOP’s immigration reform strategy by spearheading a piecemeal approach in which smaller bills dealing with border security and work visas got passed first.

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