House Passes Bill To Strengthen Authority Of Federal Watchdogs

( Inspector generals could get more independence and authority under a new bill passed through the House of Representatives this week.

Not surprisingly, the bill passed mostly along party lines, with the final vote tally coming in at 221-182.

Democrats were apparently concerned by how former President Donald Trump used his executive power to either replace or dismiss inspectors general at five different agencies over a six-week period. Liberals said they believed Trump made the decisions as a sort of revenge for trying to oversee his administration.

New York Representative Carolyn Maloney, the chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said:

“President Trump’s actions struck at the heart of why we have IGs to provide independent oversight and a check on executive branch waste, fraud and abuse. No president should be allowed to retaliate against an IG for simply doing their jobs.”

The new House legislation says that inspectors general can only be removed for their position for cause. They’d also be given subpoena power to compel testimony from witnesses who aren’t current employees of the government.

If any agency refused to provide access to information they requested, inspectors general would need to notify Congress of this.

Many Republicans believe that the legislation simply goes too far, constraining the ability of the president to terminate a person from the position. Kentucky Representative James Comer, who’s the top member of the GOP on the same House committee, said:

“There are examples of a president rightfully terminating an inspector general. And I don’t think that this bill is the right path to move forward. This is over-legislating.”

Comer also believes the authority to issue subpoenas against former employees of the federal government could easily be abused by a new president who was seeking to undermine what a previous president did. He commented:

“While it may be helpful for IGs to investigate certain allegations of misconduct, it also provides IGs with a tool that can be easily abused for political purposes.”

During his presidency, Trump used his rightful power as executive to replace inspectors general who he believed weren’t doing a good job. One who caught his ire was Christi Grimm, the acting inspector general of Health and Human Services.

Trump criticized her for publishing a survey that outline poor preparation of various hospitals for the coronavirus pandemic. The former president nominated a replacement for Grimm, but the Senate never confirmed that nominee.

President Joe Biden since nominated Grimm to permanently serve as inspector general of the department.

After Grimm published the report, Trump tweeted:

“Why didn’t the I.G., who spent 8 years with the Obama Administration (Did she Report on the failed H1N1 Swine Flu debacle where 17,000 people died?), want to talk to the Admirals, Generals, V.P. & others in charge, before doing her report. Another Fake Dossier!”

He then reiterated to reporters the fact that he had every legal right to remove inspectors general from their position. He said then:

“We have a lot of IGs in from the Obama era. And as you know, it’s a presidential decision.”