United States: The Power To Investigate: Table Of Authorities Of House And Senate Committees For The 116th Congress

For the fifth successive Congress, Gibson Dunn is pleased to release a table of authorities that summarizes the various, and, in many instances, expanding investigative authorities and powers of each House and Senate committee. We believe that understanding the full extent of a committee's investigative arsenal is crucial to successfully navigating a congressional investigation.

Congressional committees have the power to issue subpoenas to compel witnesses to produce documents, testify at committee hearings, and, in some cases, appear for depositions. If a subpoena recipient refuses to comply, committees may resort to contempt proceedings. As a result, the failure to comply with a subpoena and adhere to committee rules during an investigation may have severe legal and reputational consequences. As we explained in a client alert issued earlier this year, however, there are defenses to congressional subpoenas, including challenging a committee's jurisdiction, asserting attorney-client privilege and work product claims, and raising constitutional challenges.1

Committees may adopt their own procedural rules for issuing subpoenas, taking testimony, and conducting depositions, though in the House, general deposition procedures applicable to all committees are provided for in the House Rules and subject to regulations issued by the chair of the Committee on Rules. Each committee may reissue and if it chooses alter its rules at the commencement of each Congress.

House and Senate committees adopted their rules for the 116th Congress earlier this year. We have highlighted noteworthy changes below. It is important to remember that, in addition to the rules detailed in our table of authorities, the committees are also subject to the rules of the full House or Senate.

Some items of note:


  • While all House Committee chairs (except Rules) have the authority to order the taking of a deposition,2 the following thirteen committees fully empower their chairs to unilaterally issue a subpoena. Although the Ranking Member cannot block the subpoena, he or she usually must either be consulted or given notice prior to the subpoena being issued. Several of these committees require such notice to occur 24 to 72 hours before the subpoena is issued.3
    • Agriculture
    • Budget
    • Education and Labor
    • Energy and Commerce
    • Financial Services
    • Foreign Affairs
    • Homeland Security
    • House Administration
    • Judiciary
    • Oversight and Reform
    • Science, Space, and Technology
    • Select Intelligence
    • Ways and Means
  • In the 115th Congress, the House required (with limited exceptions) that one or more Members of Congress be present during a deposition. The House rules for the 116th Congress have eliminated this requirement, which may result in an increase in the use—or at least threatened use—of depositions as an investigative tool.4
  • The House Rules Committee's new regulations governing depositions by committee counsel now allow for immediate overruling of objections raised by a witness's counsel and immediate instructions to answer, on pain of contempt.5 These regulations appear to eliminate the witness's right to appeal rulings on objections to the full committee without risking contempt (although committee members may still appeal). This will likely speed up the deposition process, as previously the staff deposition regulations required a recess before the chair could rule on an objection.6
  • The Rules Committee's deposition regulations also now expressly allow for depositions to continue from day to day7 and permit, with notice from the chair, questioning by members and staff of more than one committee.8
  • Finally, the Rules Committee's deposition regulations have removed a prior requirement that allowed objections only by the witness or the witness's lawyer. This change appears to allow objections from staff or Members who object to a particular line of questioning.9


  • The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations remains the only Senate body to permit the Chair to issue a subpoena without the consent of the Ranking Member.
  • The Committees on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; Small Business and Entrepreneurship; and Veterans' Affairs permit the chair to issue a subpoena so long as the Ranking Member does not object within a specified time period. Additionally, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions may, by a majority vote, delegate the power to issue subpoenas to the chair, subcommittee chair, or to the chair's designee.
  • As in the last Congress, seven Senate bodies have received Senate authorization to take depositions: Judiciary, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and its Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations receive the authority to do so each Congress from the Senate's funding resolution.10 The Aging and Indian Affairs Committees were authorized by S. Res. 4 in 1977. The Ethics Committee's deposition power was authorized by S. Res. 338 in 1964, which created the committee and is incorporated into its rules each Congress. And the Intelligence Committee was authorized to take depositions by S. Res. 400 in 1976, which it too incorporates into its rules each Congress. Of these, staff is expressly authorized to take depositions except in the Indian Affairs and Intelligence Committees. The Senate's view appears to be that Senate Rules do not authorize staff depositions pursuant to subpoena. Hence, Senate committees cannot delegate that authority to themselves through committee rules. It is thus understood that such authority can be conferred upon a committee only through a Senate resolution.11
  • The Judiciary Committee remains the only committee to require a member to be present for a deposition. This requirement may be waived by agreement of the Chair and Ranking Member.
  • The Committees on Agriculture, Commerce, and Foreign Relations authorize depositions in their rules. However such deposition authority has not been expressly authorized by the Senate and, hence, it is not clear whether appearance at a deposition can be compelled.
  • The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee rules no longer authorize depositions.

Our table of authorities is meant to provide a sense of how individual committees can compel a witness to cooperate with their investigations. But each committee conducts congressional investigations in its own particular way, and investigations vary materially even within a particular committee. While our table provides a general overview of what rules apply in given circumstances, it is essential to look carefully at a committee's rules to understand specifically how its authorities apply in a particular context.

Gibson Dunn lawyers have extensive experience defending targets of and witnesses in congressional investigations. They know how investigative committees operate and can anticipate strategies and moves in particular circumstances because they also ran or advised on congressional investigations when they worked on the Hill. If you have any questions about how a committee's rules apply in a given circumstance, please feel free to contact us for assistance. We are available to assist should a congressional committee seek testimony, information or documents from you.

Table of Authorities of House and Senate Committees:



1 See Investigations in the 116th Congress A New Landscape and How to Prepare, https://www.gibsondunn.com/investigations-in-the-116th-congress-a-new-landscape-and-how-to-prepare/#_edn6.

2 See H.R. Res. 6, 116th Cong. § 103(a)(1) (2019).

3 The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee allows for unilateral issuance of a subpoena "[i]f a specific request for a subpoena has not been previously rejected by either the Committee or subcommittee." Rule IV(d)(1).

4 See H.R. Res. 6, 116th Cong. § 103(a)(1) (2019).

5 See 165 Cong. Rec. H1216 (Jan. 25, 2019) (116th Congress Regulations for Use of Deposition Authority).

6 Id.

7 The regulations provide that deposition questions "shall be propounded in rounds" and that the length of each round "shall not exceed 60 minutes per side" with equal time to the majority and minority. See supra at note 4. The regulations, however, do not expressly limit the number of rounds of questioning. In this manner, they differ from the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which expressly limit the length of depositions. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(d)(1) ("Unless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, a deposition is limited to 1 day of 7 hours.").

8 See supra at note 4.

9 Id.

10 See S. Res. 70, § 13(e) (2019) (Judiciary); id. § 12(e)(3)(E) (Homeland Security).

11 See Jay R. Shampansky, Cong. Research Serv., 95-949 A, Staff Depositions in Congressional Investigations 8 & n.24 (1999); 6 Op. O.L.C. 503, 506 n.3 (1982). The OLC memo relies heavily on the argument that the Senate Rules never mentioned depositions at that time and those rules still do not mention depositions today.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions