Hoyer, Top House Democrats Introduce Bill to Protect Inspectors General from Retaliation

May 22, 2020 by Dan McCue
State Department Inspector General Steve Linick departs the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on October 2, 2019. Linick reportedly met with congressional officials to brief them on information related to the impeachment inquiry centered around President Donald Trump. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and several ranking House Democrats introduced legislation on Friday to protect inspectors general across the executive branch from being fired as a result of political retaliation.

The Inspector General Independence Act would allow an inspector general to be removed only for specific causes and would require documentation of that cause to be reported directly to Congress.

They include documented permanent incapacity, neglect of duty, malfeasance, conviction of a felony or conduct involving moral turpitude, knowing violation of a law or regulation, gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, or inefficiency.

In addition to Hoyer, the bill’s lead sponsors are Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney, of New York, chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform; Gerald Connolly, of Virginia, chair of the Subcommittee on Government Operations; and Stephen Lynch, of Massachusetts, chair of the Subcommittee on National Security. 

“It is critical that Congress protect the independence and integrity of inspectors general across federal agencies, who play an essential role in holding government officials accountable to the law and to the American people they serve,” Hoyer said in a statement

“I commend Chairwoman Maloney for her leadership on this issue, and I’m proud to have worked with her to develop this important bill aimed at upholding the rule of law and its faithful execution,” he said.

For her part, Maloney said, “Unfortunately, this bill has become necessary because the Trump Administration has launched a campaign against inspectors general for doing their jobs, for investigating waste, fraud, and abuse, for reporting the truth, and for holding this administration accountable.”

Connolly agreed, accusing the administration of repeatedly demonstrating a complete disregard for independent oversight.

“The independence of IGs is essential to accountability that is essential to our democracy,” Connolly said. “Silence and inaction by Congress will only embolden this reckless behavior.”

Trump has removed or replaced numerous inspectors general over the course of his administration in what the Democrats say appears to be retaliation for investigating misconduct in the executive branch.

Those subjected to this treatment include the inspectors general and/or acting inspectors general for the Intelligence Community, State Department, Transportation Department, Health and Human Services Department, and the Pentagon, who was also supposed to serve as head of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee created by Congress in March.

“President Trump’s relentless attacks against these honest and dedicated government watchdogs are contrary to our fundamental democratic values,” Lynch said. “This legislation will safeguard inspectors general from political retaliation and ensure they are able to prevent the theft and misuse of American taxpayer dollars.”

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have endorsed the bill.

The text of the Inspector General Independence Act can be read here.

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