WASHINGTON— Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Wednesday said they were prepared to bring before the Committee a resolution to enforce their subpoenas to the Departments of Justice and Defense for documents and witnesses related to their investigation of the murder of 13 people at Fort Hood if the Administration does not agree to a new proposal from the Committee to protect the information they seek.
At a business meeting, the Committee also approved legislation by voice vote to improve census oversight, hold foreign contractors working overseas accountable for actions that harm U.S. citizens, and renew grant programs for fire departments and pre-disaster mitigation projects.
Several other bills – including one to encourage early planning for presidential transitions and one creating a special postal stamp to help preserve endangered species – were held over because the Committee quorum was lost.
“Senator Collins and I feel strongly it would be a very bad precedent to allow the Administration to use its criminal prosecution as an excuse to deny us the information we need for an independent investigation to determine if steps could have been taken to avoid the murder of 13 Americans at Fort Hood,” Lieberman said. “That would haunt Congress’s future ability to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch – particularly in future terrorism incidents, of which criminal investigations will most likely be launched. If we cannot reach an accommodation, Senator Collins and I will return to the full Committee for your support to enforce the subpoenas and then go to the full Senate.”
Collins said she agreed completely with Lieberman’s assessment: “I want to emphasize two points,” Collins said. “First, we began seeking this information five months ago. We were extremely reluctant to take the step of issuing subpoenas and we did so only after having request after request after request met by an absolute stonewall from the Administration. Second, our committee has had to fight for information that the Administration has given to other congressional committees and to its hand-picked investigators. I think that’s absolutely unacceptable. Clearly, we have a constitutional obligation that we are trying to carry out with this investigation.”
The Committee approved, as amended
– The Lieutenant Colonel Dominic “Rocky” Baragona Justice for American Heroes Harmed by Contractors Act, S. 2782
– The Census Oversight Efficiency and Management Reform Act, S. 3167
– The Fire Grants Reauthorization Act, S. 3267
– The Predisaster Hazard Mitigation Act, S. 3249
– Six nominees:
· Todd E. Edelman to be Associate Judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia
· Milton C. Lee Jr. to be an Associate Judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia
· Judith Anne Smith to be an Associate Judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia
· Dana Katherine Bilyeu to be a Member, Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board
· Michael D. Kennedy to be a Member, Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board
· Dennis P. Walsh to be Chairman, Special Panel on Appeals
Among the bills held over for the next business meeting were:
– The Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Act, H.R. 1454
– The Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act, S.3196.