- Post 10 July 2012
- By Copy Editor
Could a second Obama cabinet member be found in contempt of Congress? The possibility arose on Friday when House investigators escalated their efforts to make Interior Secretary Ken Salazar comply with a subpoena pertaining to the drilling moratorium that he imposed after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
After the spill, Salazar had released a report recommending a moratorium — a report protested by the very group of experts that it cited, who said their opinions were misrepresented in order to justify the moratorium.
“For more than three months, the [Interior] Department has flouted a duly authorized and issued Congressional subpoena for documents that would shed light on these actions, which led to thousands of lost jobs and decreased American energy production in the Gulf of Mexico,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., wrote in a letter to Salazar on Friday. “The Department’s failure to respond to the request to schedule interviews calls into question the sincerity of its recent statements about wanting to reach a mutually agreeable accommodation of the Committee’s oversight interest into this matter.”
Hastings said Salazar must arrange for several Interior Department officials who worked on the report to interview with the Natural Resources Committee by the week of July 16. Failing that, Hastings told Salazar that his committee “is left with no choice other than to continue to pursue compliance with the subpoena, as well as seek necessary information directly from the officials who were most involved in interacting with the peer reviewers and drafting and editing the Drilling Moratorium Report.”
A contempt of Congress charge for Salazar is not “off the table” if he does not comply, committee spokesman Spencer Pederson told USA Today. Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder became the first cabinet member in American history to be cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to produce documents pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious.
Salazar provoked a contempt finding by a federal district court in 2010, for imposing the drilling moratorium despite a federal judge’s preliminary injunction against it. “Such dismissive conduct, viewed in tandem with the re-imposition of a second blanket and substantively identical moratorium, and in light of the national importance of this case, provide this court with clear and convincing evidence of the government’s contempt,” U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman ruled. ...continues...