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Politics and Government

Denver’s DeGette wields subpoena power as Democrats prepare to investigate Trump. Here’s how she’ll use it.

The Denver congresswoman says while Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on oversight and investigations are still trying to prioritize, the Trump administration is in their crosshairs

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U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat, is at the helm of one of Congress’ most powerful investigations panels after her party’s stunning November victories — a role that means she wields subpoena powers.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver. (Handout)

And although she says Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on oversight and investigations are still trying to prioritize their specific probes, a broad target is clear: the Trump administration. Already on tap are border policy, climate change and health care.

“I’m really looking forward to holding the administration and others accountable for their actions,” she told The Colorado Sun in an interview Thursday. “… This committee has such broad jurisdiction that we come up with an idea every day.”

Democrats in the U.S. House are expected to open a range of investigations into President Donald Trump and his administration. But they are also being closely watched for signs of overreach, where Republicans hope they can score a political messaging victory.

Then there is Trump himself, who has warned of a “war-like posture” against House Democrats who seek to investigate him.

“If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level,” he tweeted in November. “Two can play that game!”

Among the agencies included under the broad purview of DeGette’s subcommittee: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Federal Trade Commission and Environmental Protection Agency.

The subcommittee already has a hearing scheduled in February on the Office of Refugee Resettlement and the Trump administration’s highly controversial policy of family separation at the nation’s southern border.

MORE: Read more politics and government coverage from The Colorado Sun.

“Beyond that, we are going to be working with the other subcommittees in Energy and Commerce around stabilizing the (Affordable Care Act) and reducing prescription drug prices,” she said. “We’re also going to be working on investigations around the EPA’s rulemaking related to climate change. We’re also going to be looking at a lot at women’s health issues.”

On the final issue, DeGette says the panel plans to look into the decision-making behind the Trump administration’s attempts to broaden birth control exemptions in health insurance plans offered by employers on the basis of religion and morality.

“To my memory, we’ve never had a hearing based on science around women’s health, contraception and reproduction,” said DeGette, who is in her 12th congressional term.

DeGette says that while she will have subpoena power in her new role, she will only use it if necessary.

“I think that the fact that we have the ability to issues subpoenas makes people much more eager to comply on a volunteer basis,” she said. “If they don’t produce the documentation … I will use the subpoena power if I need to.”

DeGette’s leadership role — which comes after she made a short-lived bid to be House whip, the No. 3 Democrat in the chamber — fulfills a campaign promise. During her re-election bid, DeGette fended off a more liberal Democratic primary challenger by touting her rank in the chamber and her ability as the potential chair of the committee to subpoena the Trump administration.

MORE: Denver’s Diana DeGette withdraws from U.S. House leadership race

“I’ve been on this subcommittee for over 20 years and I’ve seen some of the really key investigations that we’ve had that have led to legislative changes and also corporates changes,” she said. “We’re the committee that did the Enron hearings … we did the tobacco hearings.”

DeGette isn’t the only Democrat in Colorado’s congressional delegation to land a coveted House committee position.

U.S. Reps. Jason Crow, of Aurora, was chosen for the House Armed Services committee and Joe Neguse, of Boulder, will serve on the Judiciary committee. Both are freshmen congressmen.

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