Oversight Committee Organizes For the 116th Congress
Washington, D.C. (Jan. 29, 2019)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement after the Committee held its organizational meeting for the 116th Congress:
“I am pleased to announce that the Committee on Oversight and Reform has officially organized for the 116th Congress and is ready to get to work. I welcome all of our new colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and I thank them for their bipartisan participation in today’s meeting, as well as their unanimous support for the new Committee Rules. I hope we can work in a bipartisan manner to effectively and efficiently address the issues that matter most to all of our constituents.”
Freshman Member and newly-appointed Committee Vice Chair Katie Hill made this statement:
“Today’s meeting is an important first step to ensure our government is operating in a way that is worthy of public trust. I am excited for the opportunity to be a part of the organization of the Committee on Oversight and Reform for the 116th Congress so we can finally get to work on the issues that matter most to our communities.”
Chairman Cummings also explained his new, more bipartisan approach to exercising his authority to issue subpoenas. Despite the fact that the three previous Republican Committee Chairmen refused all requests from Democrats over the past eight years for a Committee vote on subpoenas, Cummings offered a more consultative approach:
“We are not going to change the rules. No substantive changes have been made to the Committee’s subpoena rules as they were adopted by both Republican and Democratic Majorities over the past several decades. But I believe we have reached agreement with the Ranking Member on the following process. This was carefully negotiated, so I am going to read directly from the text that was negotiated. Here is what it says:
“A Congressional subpoena is a powerful and coercive tool. It should be used only when attempts to reach an accommodation with a witness have reached an impasse or when necessary to obtain certain sensitive information, such as financial information, or through a so-called ‘friendly’ subpoena to protect a witness. I intend to avoid the use of unilateral subpoenas whenever possible. In the normal course, I hope to work with the Ranking Member on proposed subpoenas well in advance. I intend 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. If the Ranking Member objects to the issuance of a subpoena in writing, my preference is to bring the subpoena before the Committee for a vote, when that is feasible. Members deserve the opportunity to go on the record for some of the most important work they will do, and the public deserves the opportunity to see them do that work in the open. The Chair prefers that, when the Ranking Member objects, the Committee will have an open proceeding and a vote when feasible. There will be exceptions to this policy, when, for example, the calendar does not permit the Committee to schedule a markup between my initial consultation with the Ranking Member and the date on which a witness is scheduled to appear. But even in those cases, I intend to be open with the Ranking Member and give him every opportunity to voice his opinion on the matter.”
Chairman Cummings concluded:
“Here is what I am asking in return. And it is significant. I ask that the Ranking Member and all of our Republican colleagues not reflexively oppose any and every subpoena just because you want to protect the President. I know there are Republican ‘playbooks’ floating around that say you all will object to every subpoena, claim they are all overbroad, and on and on. If that happens, we will revisit this policy. But I ask that you—and every one of us here who swore an oath to protect the Constitution—fulfill our responsibility to serve as an independent check on the Executive Branch. And if we all do our jobs, this Committee—and our nation—will be all the better.”
Click here to view Chairman Cummings’ full statement on subpoenas.
Click here to view the Subcommittee jurisdictions, Chairs, and Ranking Members.
Click here to view the Committee Rules, which were adopted unanimously.
Click here to view a summary of the rule changes.