The Congressional Subpoena Power: How It Is Enforced
Posted on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 04:03:01 PM EST
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As the Congress and the Executive Branch move inexorably towards a clash regarding the Executive Branch's refusal to accede to information requests from the Congress and the resulting subpoenas that have been issued, it is worthwhile to review the powers of the Congress in this regard. Fortunately, in 2003, the Congressional Research Service produced a handy report on the subject:
When conducting investigations of the executive branch, congressional committees and Members of Congress generally receive the information required for legislative needs. If agencies fail to cooperate or the President invokes executive privilege, Congress can turn to a number of legislative powers that are likely to compel compliance. The two techniques described in this report are the issuance of subpoenas and the holding of executive officials in contempt. These techniques usually lead to an accommodation that meets the needs of both branches. Litigation is used at times, but federal judges generally encourage congressional and executive parties to settle their differences out of court.
This post is intended to provide some factual background on this subject as there has been much bad information bandied about on this subject. I will be writing a subsequent post on the question of Congressional oversight powers related to its subpoena and information gathering powers. So for the factual background, please follow to the flip.
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