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Natural Resources chair threatens to subpoena Interior Department

Natural Resources chair threatens to subpoena Interior Department
© Greg Nash

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) gave the Department of the Interior (DOI) a seven-day ultimatum to comply with his requests for documents, threatening to use his new subpoena power if the documents are not turned over.  

"Based on DOI's ongoing and unjustified obstruction and bad faith, the Committee is prepared to issue a subpoena if the deadline enumerated is not met," Grijalva wrote in a letter, setting a March 16 deadline.

The Natural Resources panel voted last month to give Grijalva the subpoena power amid committee’s ongoing battle to obtain several documents from the Interior Department. 

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“This stonewalling needs to end,” the lawmaker said at the time, adding that Interior had treated the committee’s oversight authority with a “cavalier attitude.”

Republicans opposed the decision, arguing that approving a subpoena would make the chairman too powerful and could hurt the rights of the minority party.

Grijalva's Monday letter specifically referenced documents relevant to the relocation of the Bureau of Land Management's headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Colorado. 

Internal numbers obtained by The Hill showed that the 87 Interior employees who either left the agency rather than accept the new assignment out West or left after the plans were announced but before they could be reassigned outnumber the 80 who agreed to move.

An Interior spokesperson said that a subpoena would be "unwarranted" and called Grijalva's move "political grandstanding" in a statement to The Hill.

"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," the spokesperson said. "It's clear the Chairman would rather make headlines than learn the facts."

The official also defended the decision to relocate the bureau's headquarters, saying it "has always been rooted in how we can better respond to the needs of the American people that we primarily serve in the West."

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At the time of the subpoena vote, Secretary David Bernhardt said in a tweet that the department has already given the committee thousands of pages of documents.

“Today’s action by the House Natural Resources Committee demonstrates they won’t let the facts stand in the way of their rhetoric. Going forward, the Department will take today’s action into account for every decision it makes to deal with this committee. Godspeed with the witch hunt," he added.

Updated at 7:45 p.m.