House Passes Chairwoman Maloney’s IG Independence and Empowerment Act

Jun 29, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (June 29, 2021)—Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2662, IG Independence and Empowerment Act, introduced by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform in a bipartisan vote of 221-182. 

The IG Independence and Empowerment Act is a comprehensive package to increase the independence of Inspectors General (IGs), protect IGs from political retaliation, and provide IGs the tools needed to perform thorough investigations.  This bill includes a critical reform that would restore and enhance IG independence by requiring that an IG can only be removed for a documented cause, based on a defined list of nonpartisan reasons such as a knowing violation of the law, abuse of authority, or gross mismanagement. 

 

Floor Statement of Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney

H.R. 2662, IG Independence and Empowerment Act

June 29, 2021

 

I rise today to urge strong, bipartisan support for my bill, H.R. 2662, the IG Independence and Empowerment Act.

 

The work of Inspectors General, who conduct independent oversight of federal agencies, continues to be a remarkable investment for American taxpayers—for every dollar we spend on IGs, we get 17 dollars back.  And this return could be even higher if we gave IGs additional tools—which is exactly what this bill would do.

 

The IG Independence and Empowerment Act is a package of critical reforms to protect IGs from political retaliation and obstruction.  I want to thank Leader Hoyer for his support, as well as all the other cosponsors of this legislation.  

 

The IG Independence and Empowerment Act also has the support of 14 good government groups.  They wrote that the reforms in this legislation:

 

“Have been crafted to address problems with inspector general independence and authority long raised by Congress, civil society, and our inspectors general.  We strongly urge Congress to pass this legislation to empower our independent watchdogs to serve the public even more effectively.” 

 

This bill would enhance the independence of IGs in several ways.  Most importantly, it would protect IGs from being fired simply for doing their jobs.  The bill would only allow an IG to be removed for a documented cause, based on a defined list of nonpartisan reasons such as a knowing violation of the law, abuse of authority, or gross mismanagement.

 

These removal protections come from a bill I introduced last year after the previous Administration bullied, sidelined, and retaliated against multiple IGs.

 

Last April and May, in six short weeks, President Trump fired or sidelined four IGs and Acting IGs who were simply doing their jobs. 

 

On April 3, Intelligence Community IG Michael Atkinson was fired after he provided a whistleblower complaint to Congress about President Trump’s now infamous call with the Ukrainian President, part of the conduct for which he was impeached by this body. 

 

On April 7, President Trump removed Glenn Fine as Acting Defense Department IG, which blocked IG Fine from serving as Chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, a Committee I helped create in the CARES Act to oversee trillions of dollars in federal spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic.  IG Fine was simply doing his job.

 

On May 15, President Trump removed Mitch Behm as the Acting Transportation Department IG, and replaced him with an agency insider.  Mr. Behm was investigating Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao at the time.

And finally, that same day, President Trump fired State Department IG Steve Linick, who at the time was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for abuse of power and misuse of resources, and replaced him with a political crony. 

 

All four of these IGs were just following the law and the facts—yet they faced blatant retaliation. This is just plain WRONG.

 

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 IGs for doing their jobs, and the IG Independence and Empowerment Act would ensure that IGs are protected against this kind of retaliation. 

 

In a letter to congressional leadership after the IG firings by Trump, nine former IGs wrote:

 

“Forcing inspectors general to choose between doing their jobs with integrity and keeping their positions is not an acceptable model of governance and oversight.  We therefore urge you to pass for-cause removal protections for all IGs.” 

 

In addition, the IG Independence and Empowerment Act would ensure temporary, acting IGs are independent and qualified, by requiring the acting IG to be the deputy IG in the same office, or another senior official from the IG community if there is no deputy.  This would protect against the appointment of Acting IGs with conflicts of interest or who are acting as political cronies.

 

The IG Independence and Empowerment Act would further bolster IG independence by requiring notification to Congress before an IG is pushed aside and placed on non-duty status so that we in Congress can support the independence of IGs.

The bill would also empower IGs by granting them the authority to subpoena non-government witnesses to provide testimony.  In many investigations, testimony from non-government witnesses is essential—so providing IGs with this authority is often the only way to root out fraud or other wrongdoing. 

 

In 2016, our former colleague Mark Meadows supported a similar provision, and highlighted that bill’s procedural safeguards, which are essentially the same in the bill we are considering today.  He stated:

 

“This bill provides the expanded authority that the IGs have asked for, but with safeguards in place to make sure that they protect against the possibility that an IG’s investigation would interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation, or do other harm.” 

 

The IG Independence and Empowerment Act would also close a loophole that prevents the Department of Justice IG from initiating investigations into professional misconduct by DOJ attorneys.

 

This bill balances enhanced authorities and independence with new accountability and transparency measures for IGs. 

 

For example, the bill contains the bipartisan Integrity Committee Transparency Act, which would require greater transparency from the CIGIE Integrity Committee—the body Congress set up to investigate IGs. 

 

Supporting IG independence has long been a bipartisan issue.  Congress must act now to protect and empower IGs so that they can perform the duties Congress has entrusted to them. 

 

I strongly urge my colleagues to support the IG Independence and Empowerment Act and continue the bipartisan tradition of protecting and strengthening IGs. 

 

To my Republican colleagues who may say these efforts are about attacking President Trump, I would respond with this:  Joe Biden is the President now.

 

I am supporting good government reforms under a Democratic administration, because I believe in accountability no matter who the President is and what party they come from.

We are talking about the future.  This is about safeguarding taxpayers’ money and protecting the integrity of our government.

 

I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will support these critical reforms as well.

 

I reserve the balance of my time.

 

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117th Congress