Vote to subpoena Interior delayed by Trump prayer breakfast

Vote to subpoena Interior delayed by Trump prayer breakfast
© Greg Nash

The House Natural Resources Committee’s plans to approve a subpoena against the Department of the Interior on Thursday have been delayed after many Republican members said they could not attend the markup, due in part to a conflict with President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press MORE’s National Prayer Breakfast.

“Members’ schedules had conflicts, and that includes the prayer breakfast,” said Austin Hacker, a spokesman for the committee's minority.

The annual prayer breakfast, which was started by evangelist Billy Graham, typically includes a number of politicians and religious leaders. 

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On Tuesday, the committee announced that it would formally weigh a subpoena. The long-awaited vote will now be scheduled for Feb. 12.

Members on both sides of the aisle have complained about not getting a number of documents from Interior.

The vote would grant Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) subpoena power as well as outline the scope of what the committee would seek from Interior.

But Republicans on Tuesday expressed discomfort with the scope of the resolution, which was written by Democrats.

“This is a change to our rules mid-process intended to wipe out input of minority members and take committee decision making behind closed doors," ranking member Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOvernight Energy: Panel gives chairman power to subpoena Interior | House passes bill to protect wilderness | House Republicans propose carbon capture bill | Ocasio-Cortez introduces bill to ban fracking House Natural Resources gives Grijalva power to subpoena Interior Overnight Energy: Trump credits economic progress to environmental rollbacks | Vote to subpoena Interior delayed by prayer breakfast | Dems hit agency for delaying energy efficiency funds MORE (R-Utah) had said in a statement.

"It’s an unprecedented power grab that, if adopted, provides unchecked subpoena authority over private citizens and agencies.”

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Bishop himself sought and used a subpoena when he was chair of the committee under the Obama administration, documents related to a review of a 2015 wastewater spill after 3 million gallons leaked from a Colorado mine. 

Democrats on the committee argue a subpoena is necessary because they’ve received just a fraction of the documents they’ve requested from Interior.

“This is the same authority most other committees give their chairs at the beginning of each Congress as a matter of course. We’re just bringing ourselves up to par with where many of our colleagues are already," Adam Sarvana, the majority spokesman, said earlier this week.

"The ranking member will be given notice before any individual subpoena goes out the door. The issue here is the unprecedented Trump administration stonewalling that got us to this point, which Republicans on this Committee have never seemed interested in addressing.”

Interior, meanwhile, has argued a subpoena would amount to political grandstanding. 

“The department has been more cooperative with the committee than any in history,” an Interior spokesperson said last week.

Updated at 4:32 p.m.