H.Res. 706: Authorizing the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to initiate or intervene in judicial proceedings to enforce certain subpoenas

H.Res. 706

Authorizing the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to initiate or intervene in judicial proceedings to enforce certain subpoenas

Sponsor
Sen. Bernard Sanders

Date
June 28, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

On Thursday, June 28, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H. Res. __ and H.Res. 706 under a rule.  The first resolution was reported from the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform by a vote of 23-17 and its report was filed in the House on June 22, 2012.  The second resolution, dealing with civil contempt, was introduced on June 26, 2012, by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).

The rule would provide 20 minutes of debate on H. Res. 706 equally divided and controlled by the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader or their respective designees.  The rule would also provide for a motion to recommit.

For additional information on contempt of Congress, see this policy brief issued last week.

Bill Summary

H. Res. 706 would authorize the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to initiate or intervene in civil judicial proceedings to enforce certain subpoenas.

 

The resolution would authorize the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to initiate or intervene in judicial proceedings in any Federal court of jurisdiction, on behalf of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to seek declaratory judgments affirming the duty of Attorney General Eric H. Holder to comply with any subpoena issued to him by the Committee as part of its investigation into the “Fast and Furious” operation, and to seek appropriate ancillary relief, including injunctive relief.

 

The resolution would require the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to report to the House with respect to any judicial proceedings which it initiates or in which it intervenes.

 

Finally, the resolution would require the Office of General Counsel of the House of Representatives, at the authorization of the Speaker, to represent the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in any litigation pursuant to this resolution.

Background

According to House Report 112-546, “an important corollary to the powers expressly granted to Congress by the Constitution is the implicit responsibility to perform rigorous oversight of the Executive Branch.  The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized this Congressional power on numerous occasions.  For example, in McGrain v. Daugherty, the Court held that ‘the power of inquiry—with process to enforce it—is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function … A legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to affect or change, and where the legislative body does not itself possess the requisite information—which not infrequently is true--recourse must be had to others who do possess it.’

“Both the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (P.L. 79-601), which directed House and Senate Committees to ‘exercise continuous watchfulness’ over Executive Branch programs under their jurisdiction, and the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 (P.L. 91-510), which authorized committees to ‘review and study, on a continuing basis, the application, administration and execution’ of laws, codify the oversight powers of Congress.

“The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is a standing committee of the House of Representatives, duly established pursuant to the Rules of the House of Representatives, which are adopted pursuant to the Rulemaking Clause of the Constitution.

“House rule XI specifically authorizes the Committee to ‘require, by subpoena or otherwise, the attendance and testimony of such witnesses and the production of such books, records, correspondence, memoranda, papers, and documents as it considers necessary.’

“The Committee’s investigation into actions by senior officials in the U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) in designing, implementing, and supervising the execution of Operation Fast and Furious, and subsequently providing false denials to Congress, is being undertaken pursuant to the authority delegated to the Committee under House Rule X as described above.

“The oversight and legislative purposes of the investigations are (1) to examine and expose any possible malfeasance, abuse of authority, or violation of existing law on the part of the executive branch with regard to the conception and implementation of Operation Fast and Furious, and (2) based on the results of the investigation, to assess whether the conduct uncovered may warrant additions or modifications to federal law and to make appropriate legislative recommendations.

“In particular, the Committee’s investigation has highlighted the need to obtain information that will aid Congress in considering whether a revision of the statutory provisions governing the approval of federal wiretap applications may be necessary.  The major breakdown in the process that occurred with respect to the Fast and Furious wiretap applications necessitates careful examination of the facts before proposing a legislative remedy.  Procedural improvements may need to be codified in statute to mandate immediate action in the face of highly objectionable information relating to operational tactics and details contained in future applications.

“The Committee’s investigation has called into question the ability of ATF to carry out its statutory mission and the ability of the Department of Justice to adequately supervise it.  The information sought is needed to consider legislative remedies to restructure ATF as needed.”

Cost

CBO did not have a cost estimate at press time.