Congress Thinks BP Commission Needs Subpoena Power, Too

A bunch of hippie members of Congress noticed the same thing about Obama’s BP Commission that I noticed: it lacks subpoena power.

So Lois Capps and Ed Markey in the House and Jeanne Shaheen and several of her colleagues are pushing legislation to give the Commission subpoena power.

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), along with nine Senate colleagues, today introduced legislation to grant subpoena power to the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, which President Obama created by executive order on May 22.  Congress has previously granted subpoena power to presidential commissions investigating national crises, including the Warren Commission and the Three Mile Island Commission.  Joining Shaheen on this legislation are Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA),  Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The Senators strongly believe that the BP Commission must have subpoena power to ensure access to all the evidence it needs to undertake a complete investigation on the causes of the spill and make meaningful recommendations on how to prevent similar disasters. Today, Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) plan to introduce similar legislation in the House.

Here’s the House version of the bill.

Now, I’ve actually been told that Obama, by himself, couldn’t give the commission subpoena power–I’m trying to clarify that.

I’m still not entirely convinced this won’t be a whitewash designed to enable future drilling in any case. But subpoena power sure would help.

61 replies
  1. BoxTurtle says:

    Excellent. Now we have to hope they actually USE the power when needed. I’ve noticed a distinct reluctance to subpoena people who might give inconvienent testimony on the part of congress over the last 10 years or so.

    If they defy the Subpoena, do they get a sternly worded letter? Or can they just say they won’t testify under oath and then lie their pants off?

    We also need to keep in mind that Holder’s “justice” dept would still control the decision as to prosecute.

    Boxturtle (And the Drillers haven’t even got a chance to weaken the bill yet)

  2. davidmizner says:

    I read in a few places that Obama doesn’t have the power to give his commission subpoena power. Here’s Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones.

    The president, however, cannot grant the commission subpoena power, which would allow it to access crucial information — documents, videos, witnesses and anything else that might be needed for the investigation.

    Although nothing’s stopping him from saying he wants it to have such power. In any case, Bob Graham says it’s going to have sp.

    • DWBartoo says:

      Thank you, David.

      While the President does not possess subpoena power, being neither implicitly or explicitly granted that power by the Constitution, the DOJ, obviously, does have subpoena power.

      Would that be correct?


      • davidmizner says:

        Sounds like you might have some legal and/or constitutional expertise. I just read blog posts.

        • DWBartoo says:

          No, David, not I.

          Merely dimly recalled some “jargon” from the Con Law courses I took, an eon ago.

          You just nudged me sufficiently that the nickel dropped.


      • bobschacht says:

        While the President does not possess subpoena power, being neither implicitly or explicitly granted that power by the Constitution, the DOJ, obviously, does have subpoena power.

        Does the DOJ have subpoena power, apart from an empaneled grand jury?

        For example, when PatFitz was investigating Libby, could he subpoena documents all by himself, or could he do so only on behalf of an empaneled grand jury?

        Bob in AZ

        • DWBartoo says:

          I understand that DOJ has “administrative” subpoena power outside of empaneled juries only to the extent of obtaining documents, a power that Congress conferred on them sometime during the middle nineties, I think.

          But I’m hoping that bmaz or someone who actually knows, for certain, will clarify this, Bob.


        • bmaz says:

          Same answer as @19, only when specifically granted by Congress; otherwise DOJ relies on court based such as GJ or trial court issued witness or duces tecum subpoenas.

    • Frank33 says:

      I read in a few places that Obama doesn’t have the power to give his commission subpoena power.

      (1) But he can still fire an unmanned drone at BP executives. (2) Or he could detain them indefinitely. (3) Or he could waterboard them using the foul stuff from BP’s oil volcano. I have my own favorite from these options which I would choose.

      • davidmizner says:

        Well, yeah. Classify BP as a terrorist outfit — hardly a stretch — and he could do whatever he wants, including Dr. Mengele-like experiments on Tony Hayward.

        But of course when the culprit is a corporate entity, the government starts to concern itself with the law.

      • DWBartoo says:

        Absolutely, and horribly correct, Frank33.

        Thank you, for that bracing and honest truth.

        Puts things in proper “perspective”.


  3. DWBartoo says:

    One hopes the Bee Pee Commission gets subpoena power, for without it the Commission begins as a toothless joke.

    Once they have it, as they must, then, as BoxTurtle suggests, it must be used, when, and, as, is necessary, with teeth, no excuses, no Sternly Worded Letters …

    Again, as BT says, the DOJ will decide whether to prosecute.

    I am interested, EW, to learn what your research clarifying whether the Executive, by itself, can grant subpeopna power, will disclose, as this would be something worth knowing, looking forward.

    Many thanks, EW, for everything, including the fine educational opportunity you provide us.


  4. manys says:

    Tony Hayward to appear before House Energy & Commerce Oversight Subcommittee. This is likely the only chance citizens will get to have any influence on the future of this problem, so note the subcommittee membership and inform them as desired.

    Bart Stupak, Michigan, Chairman
    Bruce L. Braley, IA, Vice Chair
    Michael C. Burgess, TX, Ranking Member1
    Edward J. Markey, MA
    George Radanovich, CA
    Diana DeGette, CO
    John Sullivan, OK
    Mike Doyle, PA Marsha Blackburn, TN
    Jan Schakowsky, IL
    Phil Gingrey, GA
    Mike Ross, AR
    Parker Griffith, AL2
    Donna M. Christensen, VI
    Robert E. Latta, OH3
    Peter Welch, VT
    Joe Barton, TX (ex officio)
    Gene Green, TX
    Betty Sutton, OH
    John D. Dingell (ex officio)
    Henry A. Waxman, CA (ex officio)

  5. Jeff Kaye says:

    WTF? I missed your earlier article on this. No subpoena power? What a total farce. That’s not an investigation, it’s a PR charade.

    • ghostof911 says:

      it’s a PR charade

      Think Warren Commission. Think 9/11 Commission. What else could it possibly be? What sane person would expect it to be anything else but a charade, with or without subpoena power?

    • bmaz says:

      I don’t think this is Obama’s fault. I know of no ability of the executive branch to create its own subpoena power. There may be administrative rules created pursuant to some general authority that have default provisions or penalties for not submitting or turning over requested information; but that is not true subpoena power. Administrative agencies that have real subpoena power have it by legislative grant as far as I know.

      So, as far as I know, no court or no legislative grant from Congress means no subpoena power and that is that.

  6. lefttown says:

    I’m still not entirely convinced this won’t be a whitewash designed to enable future drilling in any case.

    Well, he needs that oil if he wants to keep his wars going.

  7. Mary says:

    So, along with subpoena powers for the BP commission, can we get an IG for the CIA and a GC for NSA?

  8. fatster says:

    Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Someone noticed.

    Bipartisan SCOTUS Experts: Confirmation Hearings A ‘Joke’


  9. Mason says:

    We’re talking about Obama. Of course, he intends to protect BP and his own behavior in assisting BP to conceal its criminal behavior.

    I want to know how much money BP paid him to cover their back.

  10. Bobster33 says:

    And you know how Bee Pee will handle the commission’s subpoena power? They will create a blizzard of irrelevant documents and lobby congress to underfund the commission. That will ensure that no investigators can figure out what really happened.

  11. rkilowatt says:

    You are not going to pry whitewash from the toolkit of ThePowersThatBe.

    What did you expect? …like you thought Switzerland would give the IRS names on “secret” bank accounts? LOL

    Rules are made to be bent by ThePowersThatBend. TPTB don’t need no stinkin’ fairness, thank you very much.

    “Straighten-up” and “Trust me” are mantras of the crookedTPTB.

  12. rosalind says:

    a little comic relief as we await election results, courtesy TPMuck:

    Opening Statements Begin In Blago’s Corruption Trial

    Adam, Blago’s lawyer, is prone to dramatics, alternating between whispering and yelling during today’s statements. The judge told him that while it was OK for him to yell at the jury, he’d have tone it down for the witnesses, according to the Sun-Times.

    The judge also warned Blago against tweeting from the courtroom.

    gonna need to stock up on the popcorn…

  13. prostratedragon says:

    I can’t possibly be the only person who’s been thinking of this the past few days (couple minutes youtube).

    • BoxTurtle says:

      If BushCo were in charge, I’d be a lot more suspicous. But ObamaLLP seems to genuinely NOT want a military confrontation with Iran…but they want people to think they’ll hit Iran if Iran crosses one of the Red Lines.

      11 dimensional bluster.

      Boxturtle (Complements to b2020, it took me less than a day to find another spot to use it)

  14. Leen says:

    BP executives saying that there are no plumes of oil under surface. You could hear it awhile back that there was going to be a huge rift between what BP is required to clean up on the surface and under the surface. The responsibility war starts.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      The existance of the plumes has already been proven, BP and ObamaLLP have not yet accepted the results.

      But how do you clean up the plumes under the water? Booms are out, dispersents are likely what created the plumes in the first place, and it’s too spread out to effectively just suck it up. We’re talking about cubic MILES of water. My understanding is that the plumes are too dispersed for microbes to work as well.

      We’re going to get a lot of good science out of studying this spill, we’re gonna learn things we wouldn’t have found out any other way. But it won’t be worth the cost.

      Boxturtle (perhaps cleanup will become ObamaLLP’s new jobs program)

      • Leen says:

        This morning on NPR they brought up more tankers into the area to suck up the oil. This has been brought up by Chris Matthews over and over again. Last night on Hardball Phillipe Cousteau brought up the tanker issue.

        How much oil in the gulf

        WHOA Diane Rehm just hammered hard on these precincts in Garland County being substantially reduced.

      • PJEvans says:

        Actually, without the dispersant (which is like a detergent, chemically speaking), the microbes might have a better shot at the subsurface oil. They will take care of it, but the question is how long will it take?

        • BoxTurtle says:

          The word I got is that the plumes are too dispersed for the microbes to survive. But I’m ready to be corrected on that as more information becomes available. BP has actively avoided anything to do with the plumes and ObamaLLP actively discouraged others from looking. And those that did look were told to shut up or lose your government support. So we’re only now getting data public and it’s basically all from one set of samples.

          Boxturtle (Maybe if we detonate a big enough nuke in each plume, the oil will simply evaporate)

        • Leen says:

          Yeah BP executives are saying it all depends on what you are calling a “plume” This morning they referred to the “plumes” as “clouds” aye yi yi

          oil “clouds” Go figure

        • DWBartoo says:

          How many hydrocarbon clowns may party on the tip of a cloud of deceit?

          (Angels everywhere are on pins and needles regarding this timely question of moment and momentum.)


        • PJEvans says:

          The microbes will take care of the oil; there are species already living there that do it. (It just takes longer than a lot of people want to wait; people think all results should be fast.) The big worry is the oxygen depletion when they do it, and that’s one of the reasons they don’t want to add more oil-eaters to the water.

  15. Leen says:

    Hit it two times this morning. Have had two comments make it on the MSM in one morning and hit again this morning. (folks should try it, remember millions are listening, have been able to get in plugs for FDL many times on some of these national shows)

    able to get this one on the Diane Rehm show
    ” Senator Lincoln squeaked out a win. She is going to need the progressive movement this fall to win. We are waiting and watching and dare her to prove that her “vote is not for sale”…because her past votes sure look like they all ready sold to the highest bidder.”

    Diane said from Arkansas instead of Athens…that was great

    Athens Ohio

    Was able to get this one on the BBC this morning. They were reporting about the upcoming sanctions against Iran

    More unnecessary sanctions against Iran based on inflammatory and unsubstantiated claims put forth by Israel. Hillary Clinton and the Israeli lobby, moving closer towards a pre-emptive military strike on Iran. I know history repeats itself but this is completely insane.

    Athens Ohio


  16. fatster says:

    BP’s shocking, spurious action “plan”
    2009 strategy to handle potential spill lists dead experts, defunct Web pages and reams of faulty data


  17. fatster says:

    US sets deadline for BP as mistrust grows

    “The US tightened pressure Wednesday on BP, setting a 72-hour deadline for the battered British energy titan to present updated plans for battling the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

    . . .

    “Facing a grilling from Senate lawmakers on Wednesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar admitted that cutting the leaking riser pipe to allow the containment device to be fitted had likely increased the flow rate.”


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