As they prepared to head home for summer vacation, House Republicans fired off three subpoenas Thursday seeking more information from the State Department on the terrorist attack last year in Benghazi, Libya, and on the science the Environmental Protection Agency used to impose new clean air regulations.
The parting shots come amid a week of bitter partisanship that saw both the House and Senate fail to pass transportation spending bills, and saw each side point the finger at the other in arguing that Congress is broken.
Tempers flared on the Senate floor as Republican Sen. Susan M. Collins of Maine pleaded, without success, for her GOP colleagues to let the spending process go forward on the Democrats' bills. Republican leaders, though, said the bills break the budget deal reached in 2011.
"We need to indicate we're going to keep our word around here," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, after the GOP filibustered to block the spending bill.
But his Democratic counterpart, Majority Leader Harry Reid, said the GOP has resorted to baseless obstruction.
"I don't know, everybody, what more the Republicans could do to tarnish their brand than what they're doing here in Washington," the Nevada Democrat said.
The subpoenas, meanwhile, draw the Obama administration into the acrimony.
Two of the requests come from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, who has been investigating the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic post in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
One of his subpoenas calls for the State Department to turn over the records it shared with its own internal Accountability Review Board, an internal investigative effort which the GOP argues did not do enough to hold high-ranking officials responsible.
The other subpoena orders the administration to leave 25,000 pages of documents with the oversight committee. Currently, those documents are carted into Congress each day and then carted out at night in order to prevent lawmakers from having physical custody, House investigators said.
"State Department tactics to delay and impede accountability have exhausted the committee's patience," Mr. Issa said, warning that further subpoenas could follow.
State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach said department officials worked in good faith with Mr. Issa, and said they have made documents available throughout the committee's probe.
"For seven months, we've offered and provided access to specific documents at his request. I'm scratching my head trying to ascertain what practical value yet another Issa subpoena has in protecting our diplomats," Mr. Gerlach said.
He said the move to issue subpoenas was "a jarring juxtaposition" with the bipartisan effort in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday to pass a bill boosting embassy security in the wake of problems exposed in Benghazi.
Thursday's other subpoena came from House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, who said it's been nearly two years since EPA promised to turn over the science it used to justify what Mr. Smith said were "costly" new regulations.
"The EPA should not base its regulations on secret data," Mr. Smith said. "The EPA's lack of cooperation contributes to the suspicion that the data sets do not support the agency's actions. The American people deserve all of the facts and have a right to know whether the EPA is using good science."
Mr. Smith said Gina McCarthy, who was then deputy administrator and has since been approved as EPA administrator, promised to turn over the science data in 2011, but that the agency has failed to do so.
It was the science committee's first subpoena in 21 years, Mr. Smith said.
Since taking control of the House in 2011, Republicans have repeatedly battled the administration to try to extract information.
They held Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress for refusing to provide documents related to the botched Fast and Furious gun-walking operation.