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Who Has Subpoena Power in Congress?

A congressional subpoena can scare the otherwise fearless. It is issued to targets or witnesses during congressional investigations. You are now under the government’s microscope. With such investigations, you will have to testify under oath or produce documents for a committee belonging to one of the Houses of Congress.

Many questions are probably going through your head:

If you just received a congressional subpoena, you need legal assistance. Contact the law office of Oberheiden P.C. today for a free consultation. We will answer all your questions and explain how we can fight for you!

Oberheiden, P.C. as Your Defense Team

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Attorney Nick Oberheiden
Congress Subpoena Power
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Oberheiden, P.C. is a leading law firm consisting of a network of attorneys and professionals nationwide – including former U.S. attorneys and former government agents. We represent clients in compliance, litigation, and defense matters. Our team of attorneys and professionals has an extensive background in various types of government investigations.

We understand that receiving a congressional subpoena can be stressful – especially in an already stressful world. We are here to help! Our attorneys understand that both strong legal defense skills and practical experience in navigating congressional politics are the keys to representing our clients. And we have both!

We will work tirelessly to ensure that you are prepared for your testimony or that you have gathered all the necessary documentation that the congressional committee requested in the subpoena. Further, we know mitigation techniques to make sure this congressional inquiry has a minimal effect on you, your business, and your reputation.

Inner Workings of the Legislative Branch

The legislative branch of the federal government is the law-making body. It has several enumerated powers listed in the United States Constitution. However, one power not listed explicitly in the U.S. Constitution is the power to conduct congressional investigations.

Despite this, congressional investigations are a staple of life working in the legislative branch. Although not in the Constitution, both precedent that dates to the American Founding and acceptance by the United States Supreme Court have validated this as a power of the federal legislature.

A congressional investigation refers to a proceeding generally held in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. The purpose of congressional investigations is both to aid Congress in making laws and policy decisions and to aid in maintaining the checks and balances of the three branches of government.

The Supreme Court has upheld such investigations as essential for Congress to carry out its legislative functions. Further, the investigation is legitimate if the topic of the investigation falls within one of Congress’s enumerated powers and if the investigation does not intrude on the powers of the other two branches of the federal government.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have the power to initiate such investigations. This is a very broad power possessed by Congress. Thus, you need an attorney on your side to make sure this intrusive inquiry is not infringing on your rights.

Congressional Committees

In the legislature, the House of Representatives and the Senate are each divided into several committees. These committees are assigned specific topics to oversee, review laws, make new laws, etc.

The following is a list of committees in the Senate.

The committees of the House of Representatives include the following:

Each of these committees can be divided into subcommittees. Further, the committees can form special committees to investigate something specific. Each of these committees has the power to investigate any topic that falls within its jurisdiction. For example, the House Committee for Veterans’ Affairs investigates various topics that concern U.S. veterans, such as medical care, education, or pension.

Throughout history, these committees have been convened to investigate a multitude of different reasons, including the following:

  • Organized crime
  • Presidential impeachments
  • Civil rights
  • Corruption allegations

Put our highly experienced team on your side

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Dr. Nick Oberheiden



Lynette S. Byrd
Lynette S. Byrd

Former DOJ Trial Attorney


Brian J. Kuester
Brian J. Kuester

Former U.S. Attorney

Amanda Marshall
Amanda Marshall

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

Joe Brown
Joe Brown

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

John W. Sellers
John W. Sellers

Former Senior DOJ Trial Attorney

Linda Julin McNamara
Linda Julin McNamara

Federal Appeals Attorney

Aaron L. Wiley
Aaron L. Wiley

Former DOJ attorney

Local Counsel

Roger Bach
Roger Bach

Former Special Agent (DOJ)

Chris Quick
Chris J. Quick

Former Special Agent (FBI & IRS-CI)

Michael S. Koslow
Michael S. Koslow

Former Supervisory Special Agent (DOD-OIG)

Ray Yuen
Ray Yuen

Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)

Subpoenas in the Legislative Branch

A subpoena is an order requesting an individual or business to produce documents or to testify. Generally, when you think of a subpoena, you think of a court issuing a subpoena for a witness to testify in court. However, the legislative branch can also issue subpoenas.

Who in Congress can issue a subpoena?


Subpoenas can be issued by either house in Congress. Further, the rules of both the House of Representatives and the Senate state that subpoenas can be authorized by the congressional committees.

Subpoenas issued by congressional committees of either house are treated the same as subpoenas issued by the entire Senate or the entire House of Representatives. For example, a subpoena issued by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has the same legal standing as a subpoena issued by the entire Senate.

A senator or congressman/woman on their own cannot issue a subpoena. They must act in unison with their committees.

Further, the Supreme Court has stated that for these subpoenas to be valid, the congressional committee must have followed its committee rules in issuing a subpoena. Each committee makes its own rules.

What is the purpose of a subpoena?


The purpose of a subpoena is to provide a legal mechanism to bring required individuals before a congressional committee. The subpoena makes them legally obligated to testify before the committee about a specified topic or to provide requested documentation.

What is the validity of a subpoena issued by a congressional committee?


The ability of Congress to subpoena witnesses and documents is a power long-recognized in U.S. law.

The justification for this subpoena power is that Congress needs information to debate and make the laws of the land. Sometimes required individuals do not accept a committee’s request for testimony or documents, or they do accept it but are not entirely forthcoming. Thus, it is recognized that sometimes, to acquire this information, the individual (or representative of a business, organization, or governmental agency) must be legally ordered to abide by the committee’s request via a subpoena.

Talk with the Experienced Attorneys of Oberheiden P.C. Today

To speak to our senior defense attorneys, contact us immediately. When you are facing any government inquiry, you need a competent defender of your rights and livelihood. Procuring a strong legal defense will ensure you are protected and that the steps you take are the best ones for you. Get your life back. Get in touch with Oberheiden, P.C. now.

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