House climate change panel unlikely to have subpoena power

The climate change committee that House Democrats are planning to establish in the next Congress is unlikely to have the subpoena power afforded to most other congressional panels.

Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse Problem Solvers are bringing real change to Congress Israel vote will expose Democratic divisions This week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill MORE (D-Md.), the incoming majority leader, said Wednesday that it was his understanding that the committee wouldn’t have the legal authority to demand documents.

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“My expectation [is] it will not have subpoena power. It will be a recommendatory committee to the Energy and Commerce Committee and the environmental committees,” Hoyer told reporters.

A Democratic leadership aide later confirmed the lack of subpoena power.

Hoyer said he doesn’t see a need for subpoena authority, given the intended structure and purpose of the climate panel.

“I don’t know that they think they need subpoena power. They’re going to have experts who are … dying to come before them,” he said.

“I think they’re going to want to testify; I think they’ll want to give the best information as it relates to the crisis,” Hoyer said of scientific experts.

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiConservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Grassley, Wyden reach deal to lower drug prices Why do Republicans keep trying to outspend Democrats in Congress? MORE (D-Calif.) hasn’t announced the formal rules and structure for the panel. But progressives, led by Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezThe Memo: Trump's risky bid for attention Conservative former NFL player says Trump met with him to discuss 'black America' Louisiana police officer fired after saying on Facebook that Ocasio-Cortez 'needs a round' MORE (D-N.Y.), want the committee to be charged with formulating a plan for a Green New Deal, which includes transitioning the country to 100 percent renewable energy within 10 years.

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A lack of subpoena authority would be a change from the structure of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

That panel, which existed from 2007 to 2011 and was chaired by then-Rep. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator FTC looks to update children's internet privacy rules MORE (D-Mass.), had the power to issue subpoenas. It used that power at least once, in 2008, when it voted to compel the Environmental Protection Agency under former President George W. Bush to disclose its progress on formulating climate change rules for automobiles.

Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez, said the New York Democrat wants the new climate change panel to have the ability to issue subpoenas.

“We’ve been pretty clear about what we want the committee to have, and subpoena power is one of those things,” Trent said. “We think that the committee needs to have the authority and the capacity to develop a plan for a Green New Deal to transition our economy to a zero-carbon economy in a 10-year timeframe.”

“Without subpoena power, without the ability to draft legislation, without the commitment to not put members in seats that are taking money from the fossil fuel industry, then we don’t think we would have the capacity to do so,” he added.

Trent declined to say whether Ocasio-Cortez had relayed her position on the matter to Democratic leadership, saying he wouldn’t speak about her conversations with other lawmakers.

The leadership aide downplayed the need for subpoena authority.

“The plan going forward will be for the select committee chair to work in close coordination with the standing committee chair should an issue arise," the aide said. "Obviously, depending on the issue, that could be a different chair on different topics."

Most standard committee chairmen are expected to have authority to issue subpoenas. Without that authority, the panel’s main responsibilities would be to hold hearings and write reports.

It would also be tasked with writing legislation. But, in keeping with the standard practice for select committees, Pelosi doesn’t want to give the panel authority to advance any bills to the House floor.

The structure of the committee, including its powers and authorities, must be voted on by the entire House after the Democrats take power Jan. 3.

Mike Lillis contributed.