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UPDATED: Cummings Issues Statement on Postponement of IRS Bills

Jul 31, 2013
Press Release

Washington, DC—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued the following statement in response to House Republicans’ decision to pull three “Government Abuse Week” bills from the suspension calendar because they lacked the votes to pass them:

“The American people want Congress to take action on the most pressing challenges facing Americans, from creating new jobs to passing a budget.  Instead, House Republicans are wasting taxpayer money and the few days remaining before a five-week recess on poorly drafted messaging bills that attack the IRS even though they have identified no evidence to substantiate their claims that the White House used the IRS to target the President’s political enemies.”

Earlier this afternoon, Republican leaders pulled from the suspension calendar H.R. 2711, the Citizen Empowerment Act, which would allow individuals to record telephone and in-person conversations with federal employees without their knowledge, H.R. 1541, the Common Sense in Compensation Act, which would limit performance awards for federal workers; and H.R. 2579, the Government Employee Accountability Act, which would eliminate due process protections for Senior Executive Service members.

During debate on H.R. 2711, Cummings cited significant law enforcement opposition to the bill.  For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association warned in a letter today:

“This proposal risks undermining criminal investigations by reducing the willingness of individuals to cooperate with law enforcement, and would result in the creation of recordings of law enforcement conversations that could jeopardize sensitive and important criminal and counterterrorism investigations.”

This letter followed opposition letters from several other law enforcement organizations, including the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which stated in its letter

“This legislation puts law enforcement officers at risk and does a disservice to the brave men and women who are asked to put their lives on the line to protect us from terrorists and criminals.”

The National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys also opposes the bill and stated in its letter

“The version of the legislation approved by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on July 24 did not contain any exceptions.  Clearly, this measure raises a magnitude of administrative and legal concerns that should be addressed before the House of Representatives gives further consideration to approval of this legislation.”

The Oversight Committee held no hearings on H.R. 2711 before bringing it to the House floor and received no testimony from law enforcement officials about its potential negative impact on ongoing investigations.  Nevertheless, House leaders plan to move forward with the bill by combining it with two other bills for a vote under a rule tomorrow. 


UPDATE: House GOP leaders combined the three “Government Abuse Week” bills into one bill, H.R. 2879, to be considered under a closed rule today. Today, the NAAUSA issued a fact sheet on H.R. 2879, stating:

“Section 301 of H.R. 2879 [the Citizen Empowerment Act] will undermine federal civil enforcement activities and criminal prosecutions during the investigative, pretrial, trial and enforcement phases of litigation involving the interests of the United States.”

In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union expressed opposition to the bill and stated in its letter:

“[W]e are unable to support the marked up version of H.R. 2711, the ‘Citizen Empowerment Act,’ which in its present form threatens to impermissibly interfere with government workers’ constitutional liberties. We urge you to delay a vote on the bill and to amend it to prevent any unintended consequences.

113th Congress