Oversight Committee Approves First Subpoenas of the 116th Congress— And They Are Bipartisan

Feb 26, 2019
Press Release
Subpoenas for Documents to Help Reunite Separated Immigrant Children Supported by All Democrats and Some Republicans

Washington, D.C. (Feb. 26, 2019)—Today, the Committee on Oversight and Reform authorized Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, by a vote of 25 to 11, to issue subpoenas to Attorney General William P. Barr, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II for records on the Trump Administration’s child separation policy.

The subpoenas require the agencies to produce specific categories of information about each separated child—the same information requested seven months ago on a bipartisan basis by then-Ranking Member Cummings and Rep. Mark Meadows, then the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations.

All Democratic Members voted to authorize the subpoenas, and they were joined by two Republican Members:  Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI).  

Cummings made the following statement at today’s business meeting:

“These subpoenas will be the first issued by the Committee in the 116th Congress.  I did not make this decision lightly.  As many of you know, I have been passionate about this issue since it first became public last year, and I believe it is a true national emergency.  When our own government rips vulnerable children, toddlers, and even infants from the arms of their mothers and fathers with no plan to reunite them, that is government-sponsored child abuse.  It is our job to step in and protect those children.  Further delay is not an option.”

As of last week, the agencies had provided none of the requested information despite numerous follow-up letters from Cummings on August 2, 2018, September 17, 2018, September 25, 2018, December 19, 2018, and February 5, 2019.

The agencies sent last-minute letters over the past several days with limited sets of documents, but they were either non-responsive, redacted, or included only aggregated information.  To this day, none of the agencies has committed to providing the specific information the Committee needs to ensure that families are reunited. 

According to Committee Rules, Chairman Cummings can authorize subpoenas on his own, but he chose instead to consult with Ranking Member Jim Jordan in advance.  Ranking Member Jordan objected to the subpoenas and requested a Committee vote, which Cummings agreed to—something Republicans never did over the last eight years. 


Click here to watch Chairman Cummings’s opening statement.

Click here to read his opening statement.

Click here to read a timeline of the Committee’s investigation.



116th Congress