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Citing a panel investigation of abortion providers, House lawmakers call for curbs on subpoena power

A group of liberal lawmakers on Tuesday sent a letter to House Rules Committee leadership calling for a reversal of a rule change that expanded committee chairs' subpoena power, citing an abuse of power by a subcommittee targeting abortion providers, The Hill's "Floor Action" reports.

The rule change, made in January 2015, gave chairs of several committees, including the Energy and Commerce Committee, power to issue subpoenas unilaterally, without consulting the ranking member. Previously, only the House Oversight Committee chair had such authority.

In the letter, 38 liberal lawmakers called for Rules Committee leadership to reverse the expansion when Congress' next session begins in January. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), ranking member of the subcommittee investigating abortion providers, was among the signatories.

The lawmakers wrote, "The 114th Congress has shown that unilateral subpoena power can too easily be used as weapon against those expressing views with which a committee chair does not agree, and we write to urge that this rule be changed to prevent further abuse and partisanship" (Marco, "Floor Action," The Hill, 10/5).

For instance, citing the subcommittee investigating abortion providers, the lawmakers wrote, "The newly created Select Panel investigating Planned Parenthood has used its unilateral subpoena power to harass and endanger researchers, patients, and providers" (Foster et al., Letter to House Rules Committee, 10/4). Liberal lawmakers in the House have repeatedly criticized the investigation and called for the subcommittee's disbandment ("Floor Action," The Hill, 10/5).