Committee Chairman Darrell Issa in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, September 19, 2013.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Subpoenas are not supposed to be partisan toys

The Obama administration announced this week that it’s poised to publicly release the preliminary enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Act. Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee issued a subpoena to obtain the exact same information that the White House has already said it will soon publish. So why bother with a subpoena? That’s unclear.
Yesterday, House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced a new subpoena as part of his peculiar interest in the IRS “controversy” from six months ago. Why issue another subpoena in a fake scandal that’s already been discredited? That’s unclear, too.
And then there’s Republicans’ interest in Todd Park.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is threatening to subpoena a key ObamaCare official who declined to attend a hearing on the law’s rollout next week. 
Issa wrote Thursday that he may legally compel Todd Park, the chief technology officer at the White House, to testify if Park does not agree to appear on his own.  “Your role in the development and rollout of … uniquely positions you to provide testimony that will be valuable for both Congress and the public,” Issa wrote in a letter to Park.
In this case, Park and administration officials have said he’ll gladly testify in early December – when he’s a little less busy. Issa said yesterday that unless Park stops working and allows himself to be publicly berated by the committee in November, Issa will consider this a “refusal” to testify, which will spark a subpoena – for someone who’s already volunteered to answer the committee’s questions.
At a certain point, the House Republicans’ approach to oversight needs to be called out for what it is: farcical. I’m all for accountability and oversight – it’s partly why Congress exists – but there’s nothing responsible about casually throwing around subpoenas as if they’re political toys.
This is especially interesting given Issa’s recent past. A Democratic source emailed last night to note that in April 2007, the House Oversight Committee demanded testimony from then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, when Rice said she was busy. Issa said at the time that “the inappropriateness of hauling the secretary of state … out of the performance of her job is what we’re objecting to.”
But hauling the White House’s chief technology officer out of the performance of his job is fine? After he’s already volunteered to testify in four weeks?