16 Top House Democrats Condemn Republican Expansion of Unilateral Subpoena Power

Feb 10, 2015
Press Release

16 Top House Democrats Condemn

Republican Expansion of Unilateral Subpoena Power


Washington, D.C. (Feb. 10, 2015)—Today, the top ranking Democrats on 16 House Committees sent a letter to all Members of the House of Representatives denouncing the recent effort by House Republicans to vastly expand the ability of committee chairmen to issue unilateral subpoenas with no debate and no vote.

“For decades, responsible committee chairmen—both Democratic and Republican—recognized that the coercive power of subpoenas should be used only as a last resort, and they obtained the concurrence of the ranking member or called a committee vote before issuing subpoenas,” the Members wrote. “This year House Republicans are changing the rules to give some chairmen unfettered authority to issue subpoenas unilaterally, adopting an abusive model embraced only by Senator Joe McCarthy, former Rep. Dan Burton, and Rep. Darrell Issa. To their credit, some well-functioning committees, such as the Committees on Appropriations, Armed Services, Intelligence, and Veterans’ Affairs, did not expand subpoena power for their chairmen.”

The Ranking Members circulated a powerful op-ed written by former Rep. Henry A. Waxman in the Washington Post titled “Congressional Chairmen Shouldn’t Be Given Free Rein Over Subpoenas.” 

Waxman, who spent 40 years in the House, chaired multiple committees, and is widely respected by Democrats and Republicans as one of the most effective congressional investigators in history, warned against “emulating the McCarthy-Burton-Issa model.”  He wrote:  “This is an invitation to abuse that diminishes the prospect for responsible congressional oversight. Unfortunately, this ill-fated move has received virtually no attention.”


Click here to read the letter from the following 16 Ranking Members:

Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

                                    Select Committee on Benghazi

Ranking Member Corrine Brown, Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Ranking Member John Conyers Jr., Committee on the Judiciary

Ranking Member Peter A. DeFazio, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

Ranking Member Eliot L. Engel, Committee on Foreign Affairs

Ranking Member Raul M. Grijalva, Committee on Natural Resources

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

Ranking Member Sander M. Levin, Committee on Ways and Means

Ranking Member Nita Lowey, Committee on Appropriations

Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr., Committee on Energy and Commerce

Ranking Member Adam Schiff, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Ranking Member Louise M. Slaughter, Committee on Rules

Ranking Member Adam Smith, Committee on Armed Services

Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson, Committee on Homeland Security

Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen, Committee on Budget

Ranking Member Maxine Waters, Committee on Financial Services


Click here to read the op-ed by former Chairman Henry Waxman.


114th Congress