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Capps Introduces Subpoena Bill

Would Allow Oil Spill Commission to Obtain Information and Evidence from Companies


Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) introduced a bill on the House Floor today, June 23.

The bill would authorize subpoena power for President Obama’s new Oil Spill Commission — the seven-member committee created with an executive order on May 22.

Obama’s order impaneled the commission to investigate the causes of the Gulf Oil Spill and develop options to prevent future spills, but it lacked subpoena power. (Obama, by himself, is unable to authorize subpoena power for the commission — doing so requires congressional action.)

The bill (HR 5481) was first introduced on June 8 and was tweaked before today’s introduction — the adjustment required the commission to notify and consult with the Department of Justice, according to Capps’s press secretary.

Subpoena power can afford valuable sway — not just in delivering subpoenas but also in threatening to exercise it. In effect, subpoena power facilitates the obtaining of information and evidence, which would help prevent BP from stonewalling the inquiry.

“Subpoena power will ensure that the public can look to the Commission’s final report and trust its findings, knowing that it had the resources required to conduct a thorough investigation,” Capps said in the bill’s news release.

Capps was joined by Ed Markey in the House, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and nine other senators in introducing the bill.

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