Dems craft bill to give oil spill commission subpoena power

A group of Senate Democrats unveiled a bill on Tuesday that would give the presidential commission investigating the Gulf oil spill the power to issue subpoenas.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and nine other Democrats introduced legislation to give the bipartisan panel the authority to compel officials from BP and the government to appear and testify as it investigates the causes of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“BP and the other companies responsible for this devastating oil spill must not be allowed to stonewall the American people,” Shaheen said in a statement. “Subpoena power is absolutely necessary to make sure that all responsible parties provide us with the information and evidence we need in order to prevent an economic and environmental disaster of this magnitude from ever happening again.”

Shaheen's office pointed to precedent for special presidential commissions having received subpoena power, notably the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as well as the commission that probed the nuclear crisis at Three Mile Island in 1979.

President Barack Obama established the commission late last month and appointed former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and former Environmental Protection Agency Director William Reilly (R) as co-chairmen.

Companion legislation will be introduced by Reps. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) in the House.

Other Senate Democrats to sign onto Shaheen's bill include Sens. John Kerry (Mass.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Mark Begich (Alaska) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.).

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