Rep. Raul Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, secured committee approval this week of a rule change granting himself sweeping, unchecked power to investigate private citizens and Federal agencies. Committee rules had previously stated that the Chairman must coordinate in the preparation of subpoenas and hold votes before issuing them. Yet, Grijalva changed the rules on Wednesday to give himself the power to issue any subpoenas without having to hold any votes—simply with the stroke of his pen.
During the markup of the rule change, SCI’s allies on the committee were able to offer amendments to the subpoena resolution to safeguard against abuses of power. Ranking Republican Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) offered amendments that were adopted by voice vote. Bishop’s amendment requires Grijalva to consult the ranking Republican prior to issuing a subpoena. Gosar’s amendment enables private citizens (those outside of federal government employment) to apply for reimbursement of attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act. An amendment offered by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) would have shielded private citizens from the subpoena resolution. This amendment was rejected by the majority Democrats.
The resolution was adopted on a party-line vote and wipes out input from members minority Republicans. During debate Bishop, a former committee chair, swung hard against the Grijalva power grab: “This blanket authority is being given to coerce agencies and private individuals into meeting botched and overly broad requests. So, the fact we are doing this change is unusual… and it is certainly not in the best standards of legislation, or the bests standards in Congress.”