A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that congressional oversight committee members in the minority can sue to enforce requests for government information.
A three-judge panel for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in favor of a group of House Democrats on the Oversight and Reform Committee who had sought information from the General Services Administration (GSA) about the government's lease of the Old Post Office building in D.C. to the Trump Organization to house the Trump International Hotel.
The majority found that groups of lawmakers charged with oversight have standing to bring lawsuits to enforce their requests for information even if they don't constitute a majority on their committee. The ruling affirms subpoena-like power for groups of Oversight committee members of at least seven in the House and five in the Senate.
The two-judge majority ruled that the House members in the case had shown that they suffered harm from the GSA's refusal to comply with their demands that could be redressed by a court.
"It is concrete—the request was made and straightforwardly denied; the Requesters have been and remain empty-handed," Judge Patricia Millett, an Obama appointee, wrote for the majority. "The injury is personal and particularized to the Requesters themselves, not to any other legislators, to a legislative body, or even to their Committee seats."
A spokesman for the Justice Department, which is representing the GSA in the case, was not immediately able to comment on the decision.
The case is far from settled, despite the victory for the 16 House Democrats who brought the lawsuit.
The ruling on Tuesday, which can be appealed, would remove only one obstacle from the Democrats' lawsuit that was filed in November 2017, before the party gained control of the House.