The Department of Homeland Security has told Congress it will not allow four senior Border Patrol officials to testify next month about the chaos at the border.
Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House’s oversight committee, had invited the chief patrol agents in four sectors of the southern border to testify about what they are seeing right now. Mr. Comer said Friday that Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas vetoed letting them testify.
“DHS is obstructing congressional oversight,” Mr. Comer wrote in a letter challenging the move.
He said he may be forced to use “compulsory” measures — likely a subpoena — to force the testimony.
The dispute is the first of what is likely to be a series of clashes between the new House Republican majority and the Biden administration, which for two years benefited from a compliant Congress reluctant to probe the Democratic president’s actions and struggles.
In asking the career Border Patrol officials to testify, Mr. Comer was seeking to blow through the political smokescreen that the Biden team has erected around the chaos at the southern border.
Where Mr. Mayorkas claims a secure border, Border Patrol agents have described a boundary out of control, with agents pulled from the front lines to spend time processing the record levels of migrants that are coming.
Mr. Comer wrote a letter on Jan. 19 requesting testimony from the chief patrol agents on Feb. 6.
Now, Mr. Comer said, Homeland Security is claiming it gets to pick whom lawmakers hear from.
The Kentucky Republican said that is an impossible standard that would give the executive branch a veto over a wide range of witnesses Congress would want to hear from.
“It is unfortunate that you are trying to prevent the American people from hearing candid and truthful testimony of U.S. Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agents,” Mr. Comer wrote.
He said he was renewing his request for testimony from them.