House passes Issa bill aiming to strengthen congressional subpoena power

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) support for increasing government accountability moved ahead with Monday’s House passage of legislation he introduced that would strengthen congressional authority to obtain documents for investigations.

The Congressional Subpoena Compliance and Enforcement Act of 2017, H.R. 4010, would enable the House, Senate, or committees or subcommittees to seek relief in the courts for failure to comply with a subpoena. The federal court system could impose monetary penalties against subpoenaed federal agency heads if they are held not to have complied with the subpoena. The legislation stipulates that no government funds be used to pay such a penalty.

“We have a responsibility to hold government accountable because the people have a right to know what they get from their government and because they deserve an efficient, effective government that works for them,” Issa, the chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, said.

The bill establishes a compliance structure that would deter attempts to withhold subpoenaed records necessary for congressional investigations. The bill would require logging information about the missing materials to enable investigators to “assess the legal basis for withholding” them, the legislation says.

Issa, the former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he saw subpoenaed parties go to great lengths to avoid turning over documents or materials to a committee for review.

“The subpoena compliance legislation approved today is a long-overdue update that will strengthen our ability to hold government and its leaders accountable to the people they represent,” Issa added.

Speaking in support of the bill, U.S Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Congress needs authority to issue subpoenas to hold the government accountable and to uncover misconduct.

“Relying on the existing framework to enforce congressional subpoenas has proved an inadequate means of protecting congressional prerogatives — which is why the Congressional Subpoena Compliance and Enforcement Act is so important,” Goodlatte said. ”I want to thank Subcommittee Chairman Issa for his work to strengthen Congress’s power to investigate and conduct oversight. I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to quickly pass this bill and send it to the president to be signed into law.”