‘Working together, we can conduct robust oversight and investigations in the light of day…’
(Lionel Parrott, Liberty Headlines) The House Committee on Oversight and Reform held an organizational meeting Monday, where among other things the Democratic chairman promised to be transparent when it comes to the controversial issue of subpoenas.
Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, ranking member of the Oversight Committee, praised Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., for his pledge to pursue subpoenas in a transparent manner. Jordan’s office noted the agreement in a press release.
“I appreciate the Chairman’s commitment to an open and deliberative process in his issuance of subpoenas,” said Jordan, known as a stalwart member of the House Freedom Caucus and a key ally of President Donald Trump. “I look forward to working with him in a fair and constructive manner.”
Subpoenas are a powerful congressional tool, and Republicans have voiced concerns that newly empowered Democrats will abuse them in their quest to take down the president’s administration.
Cummings previously said that after years of letting the committee’s GOP members call the shots, he did not intend to seek their input in the new Democrat-led agenda by sharing subpoena power.
Already, he and Jordan have been at odds on several committee matters, including an invitation to former Trump lawyer and convicted felon Michael Cohen to publicly testify. After accepting the invitation, Cohen backed out, citing “intimidation” but has since agreed to offer testimony before another House committee.
The agreement on language regarding the issuance of subpoenas will lay the groundwork for committee actions in the months to come. It specifies that subpoenas “should be used only when attempts to reach an accommodation with a witness have reached an impasse or when necessary to obtain sensitive information, or through a so-called ‘friendly’ subpoena to protect a witness.”
It said Cummings “intends” to avoid using unilateral subpoenas. Presumably, this means he hopes at least some Republicans will join in calling for them to be issued. Of course, there’s nothing that would preclude Cummings from issuing a subpoena even if the motion was supported only by Democrats.
In addition, the chair agreed to notify the ranking member of proposed subpoenas “well in advance” of their issuance. The agreement lays this out thus: “The Chair intends to consult with the Ranking Member by providing his office with a physical copy of the subpoena at least two days (48 hours) before it is issued.”
Apparently, the Democratic committee chairs have decided this is how they will handle subpoenas going forward.
“The Judiciary Committee entered a new era of bipartisanship under your leadership,” wrote Collins. “I want to thank you for agreeing to an unprecedented level of transparency, a commitment that will serve the American people well. Working together, we can conduct robust oversight and investigations in the light of day, where our fellow citizens can observe this Committee’s work and weigh its merits.”
Collins’ praise omits the fact that none of the committee rules are binding, and chairs can ignore them if they please. But perhaps they’re better than nothing.