Republicans continue to block passage of subpoena power bill

September 29, 2010

(Washington, DC) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today went to the floor of the United States Senate to ask for the fourth time for Republican Senators to drop their opposition to a bill to grant subpoena power to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.  More than five months after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which took 11 lives, led to the worst environmental disaster in American history and billions of dollars in economic damages along the Gulf Coast, Republicans continue to stand in the way of full accountability for the American people.   

"How long must we wait before Republicans in the Senate allow the families of the 11 oil workers who lost their lives to get the answers they deserve from BP?" said Shaheen.  "Subpoena power is critical in order to make sure that all parties responsible for this devastating oil spill, especially BP, provide us with the information and evidence we need in order to prevent a disaster of this magnitude from ever happening again.  It is unfortunate that the Senate was unable to come together today in a bipartisan way to do what is right for the people of the Gulf Coast and the country."

On May 21st, President Obama established the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling through Executive Order to examine the causes of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  The commission has been holding hearings since July and is required to issue a report on the incident in January 2011, however the co-chairs of the Commission said yesterday that they have "encountered resistance to full responses to their questions" in the absence of subpoena power.  Only Congress has the authority to provide subpoena power to require witnesses, documents and records to be made available to the Commission.

The House of Representatives passed companion legislation on June 23rd by a vote of 420 to 1.  Senator Shaheen asked for unanimous consent to pass legislation to grant subpoena power three times on the Senate floor, and each time Senate Republicans objected.

Congress has provided subpoena power to national commissions investigating major disasters in the past, including commissions investigating the accident at Three Mile Island, and the September 11th terrorist attacks and the 2008 financial crisis.

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