Issa Threatens EPA With Contempt as Team Obama Celebrates Its Climate Anniversary

Oversight chairman says agency has failed to comply with a subpoena.

Rep. Darrell Issa interviewed after Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 25, 2011.
National Journal
Jason Plautz
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Jason Plautz
June 25, 2014, 9:37 a.m.

While most of Pres­id­ent Obama’s Cab­in­et was tout­ing the an­niversary of Pres­id­ent Obama’s land­mark speech in which he laid out plans to ad­dress cli­mate change, EPA Ad­min­is­trat­or Gina Mc­Carthy was left fa­cing a con­tempt threat from House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee Chair­man Dar­rell Issa.

Issa is­sued a sub­poena in Novem­ber for doc­u­ments and com­mu­nic­a­tions between the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency and the Ex­ec­ut­ive Of­fice of the Pres­id­ent over a five-year peri­od as part of an in­quiry in­to wheth­er the White House in­terfered with how the agency re­spon­ded to con­gres­sion­al in­quir­ies.

That re­quest has gone un­ful­filled, said Issa, who says he’s plan­ning to con­vene a com­mit­tee busi­ness meet­ing after next week’s re­cess and hold the agency in con­tempt if the doc­u­ments are not turned over or ex­ec­ut­ive priv­ilege ex­er­ted.

“There is no ne­go­ti­ation “¦ ne­go­ti­ation time ex­pired long ago,” Issa said.

Mc­Carthy told the com­mit­tee that EPA staff was still work­ing with the com­mit­tee to ad­dress its con­cerns and this morn­ing held an in cam­era re­view of a pre­vi­ously-re­dac­ted email that showed there was no co­ordin­a­tion with the White House about how to com­ply with con­gres­sion­al re­quests. Mc­Carthy said the email should ad­dress the root of the sub­poena.

Demo­crats were quick to cri­ti­cize Issa for fo­cus­ing so much on agency man­age­ment, es­pe­cially since the hear­ing fell a year after the pres­id­ent’s cli­mate speech and marked Mc­Carthy’s first ap­pear­ance be­fore Con­gress since EPA re­leased a car­bon pol­lu­tion-re­duc­tion plan for ex­ist­ing power plants.

“Even­tu­ally, I be­lieve, the com­mit­tee must turn from ‘over­sight’ to ‘re­form,’ ” said rank­ing mem­ber Eli­jah Cum­mings of Mary­land. “At some point, his­tory calls on us to take on the greatest chal­lenge our gen­er­a­tion has ever faced in glob­al warm­ing.”

Rep. Gerry Con­nolly of Vir­gin­ia also dis­missed Issa’s ori­gin­al re­quest as a “fish­ing ex­ped­i­tion.”

The hear­ing also in­cluded a bit of deja vu for the com­mit­tee when mem­bers grilled Mc­Carthy on lost emails from a hard-drive crash (the same is­sue that wiped out emails from IRS em­ploy­ee Lois Lern­er). In this case, the emails in ques­tion were from re­tired EPA em­ploy­ee Philip North, who was in­volved in the agency’s de­cision to be­gin the pro­cess of pree­mpt­ively veto­ing the Pebble Mine pro­ject in Alaska.

North, who de­clined an in­ter­view re­quest by the com­mit­tee, is re­tired, and com­mit­tee staff say they have been un­able to track him down. Ac­cord­ing to a com­mit­tee aide, North’s hard drive crashed in 2010 — which was around the same time that the com­mit­tee is in­vest­ig­at­ing the agency’s dis­cus­sions of a po­ten­tial veto — and the emails were not backed up.

Mc­Carthy said it ap­peared there were some emails the agency could not pro­duce that should have been kept, but she was still work­ing to see if they could be re­covered. Mc­Carthy made it clear that it was a small set of emails and that the agency had no­ti­fied the Na­tion­al Archives of the prob­lem Tues­day, though had told Over­sight Com­mit­tee staff earli­er.

Rep. Mark Mead­ows, a Re­pub­lic­an from North Car­o­lina, raised con­cerns that the fail­ure to back up the emails was a vi­ol­a­tion of the Fed­er­al Re­cords Act.

What We're Following See More »
AFTER THE VOTE FOR SPEAKER
Ryan: No Committee Assignments Until New Year
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

House Speaker Paul Ryan has decreed that House members "won’t receive their committee assignments until January — after they cast a public vote on the House floor for speaker. "The move has sparked behind-the-scenes grumbling from a handful of Ryan critics, who say the delay allows him and the Speaker-aligned Steering Committee to dole out committee assignments based on political loyalty rather than merit or expertise." The roll call to elect the speaker is set for Jan. 3, the first vote of the new Congress.

Source:
TRUMP TOWER MEETING
Statehood, Metro Come Up as Bowser Meets Trump
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser met with Donald Trump this morning in Manhattan, with statehood and the Metro system on the agenda. “We talked about the things that are important to Washingtonians, and certainly becoming the 51st state is one of them," she said after the meeting. She also made the point that the District is “not dependent on the federal government for our funds," and brought up funding for Metro. She told reporters that Trump is a fan of D.C.

Source:
EVENT IN NC
Mattis Gets the Official Nod Tonight
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
LOWER COURT TO DETERMINE NEW DAMAGES
SCOTUS Sides with Samsung Over Apple
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A unanimous Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with smartphone maker Samsung in its high-profile patent dispute with Apple over design of the iPhone. The justices said Samsung may not be required to pay all the profits it earned from 11 phone models because the features at issue are only a tiny part of the devices. Apple had won a $399 million judgment against Samsung for copying parts of the iPhone's patented design, but the case now returns to a lower court to decide what Samsung must pay."

Source:
AFRAID OF BUDGET CUTS
Pentagon Hid Evidence of Waste
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login