House committee to subpoena HHS, DHS DOJ for family separation documents

The House Oversight Committee voted Tuesday to subpoena the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services for documents related to family separation at the southern border.

Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said that documents the agencies had turned over were insufficient and didn’t answer any of the committee’s questions.

Two Republicans — Justin Amash of Michigan and Chip Roy of Texas — voted with Democrats to compel the administration to hand over the documents.

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Top Republicans on the committee decried the subpoenas as hasty, arguing that Cummings had only requested the documents as chairman three weeks prior and had already received hundreds of pages of documents that demonstrated the agencies were cooperating in good faith.

“You didn’t want to lay the groundwork. You just wanted to be first,” Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican of the Oversight Committee accused Cummings. “The subpoenas you are pushing for today, I think are premature.”

Cummings argued that the requests for information in the subpoenas were identical to a bipartisan request that the committee made in the summer of July 2018 and therefore were not hastily composed.

“Time is of the essence,” Cummings said.

In a statement, HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said the agency has already turned over hundreds of documents and will cooperate with lawmakers.

“HHS understands and appreciates the important role of Congressional Oversight and has communicated regularly and in good faith with members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Additionally, we have transparently provided 792 pages of documents related to the Committee’s request and offered their staff a review of the Office of Refugee Resettlement portal at the Department,” Oakley said.