Natural Resources Committee gears up for vote to subpoena Interior

Natural Resources Committee gears up for vote to subpoena Interior
© Greg Nash

A House Natural Resources Committee vote to subpoena the Department of Interior could come as early as next week after months of consideration by the committee.

The vote, expected during markups, would give Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) the authority to force Interior to hand over records after a long list of acrimonious exchanges between lawmakers and department leaders.

Committee Democrats have sought a number of records from Interior throughout the Trump administration but have been frustrated after frequently receiving either no response or heavily redacted records.

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The bipartisan nature of those grievances was on display in September, when the committee held a hearing to discuss the lack of response to their requests.  

“There are many of us on the other side of the aisle that may not share the Democrats’ policy positions, but do recognize the role of oversight, and are frustrated when legitimate requests, bipartisan requests are made and not answered,” Rep. Tom McClintockThomas (Tom) Milller McClintockHouse votes to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Cook shifts 20 House districts toward Democrats Democrats start cracking down on masks for lawmakers MORE (R-Calif.) said at the hearing.

The vote would dictate the scope of Grijalva’s subpoena powers and kick off a discussion about what records the committee would seek.

Grijalva in September said he was weighing a subpoena to force Interior to turn over documents tied to the controversial relocation of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

“The hearing validated some things we had been considering and also justifies us going further in the consideration of a subpoena to get those reorganization papers. I think that’s the next step,” he said following a hearing with BLM acting Director William Pendley. 

During the hearing, Pendley was unable to answer some questions about the move, including how many employees they expected to lose during the relocation. 

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Interior disputed that it has not been clear about the employment figures underlying the move or that it has not cooperated with the committee.

"Chairman Grijalva's long-desired intention to issue unwarranted subpoenas is nothing more than political grandstanding and a lowly partisan attack against the Trump Administration. The Department has been more cooperative with the Committee than any in history – turning over an unprecedented number of documents and even extending multiple invitations for personal visits with the Secretary, none of which have been accepted. It's clear the Chairman would rather make headlines than learn the facts," an Interior spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill. 

--Updated at 11:52 a.m.