Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA) has announced changes to committee rules that will make it easier to issue subpoenas.
While the announcement of the rules changes did not explain them, it did say that "included in the rules officially adopted today are new sections detailing the process by which the Committee may exercise its authority to issue subpoenas," a process that announcement from the Commerce Committee said would "allow the Committee to act quickly and aggressively to protect consumers and make sure our government is functioning effectively, efficiently and rooting out abuse - which is especially critical at a time of limited resources and economic uncertainty."
According to a Hill source, the change is that there used to have to be a committee vote on a special resolution on whether to issue a subpoena. "Under the new rules, the chairman and the ranking member can make the decision together to issue a subpoena if they want to investigate something."
The committee "has always had the subpoena power, but it always required this labor-intensive process."
The committee may not get to vote on subpoenas, but it did vote to approve the streamlined process.
All subpoena power resides with the chair, which means sub-committee chairmen like John Kerry atop the new Communications & Tech Subcommittee, can not independently authorize subpoenas.