Last month I seemed to anger some of my regular correspondents when I asked why IRS worker Lois Lerner was able to employ the 5th Amendment in the way she had. I was bothered by the way she seemed to be benefiting from the “best of both worlds” in terms of dancing around the law while apparently flaunting the national interests her job would require her to support. I suppose the lawyers in the crowd have made their case well enough for now, but rather than dragging her into court, how about if we just fire her? That could be the result if a new proposed rule is put in place.
Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks has sponsored legislation that would make refusing to testify in front of Congress a firable offense for federal workers, The Hill reported Thursday
The legislation is nicknamed the “Lerner” bill, after Director of IRS Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner, who plead the Fifth Amendment in front of a House committee on May 22 about her role in the IRS’s targeting of tax-exempt tea party groups.
Lerner infuriated GOP members of the House by first stating that “I have not done anything wrong,” before pleading the Fifth, leading South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy to argue that Lerner waived her rights by delivering that short statement. California Rep. Darrell Issa later agreed with Gowdy.
Here’s the wording of the applicable portion of the rule:
“Any federal employee who refuses to answer questions in a congressional hearing after being granted immunity shall be terminated from employment.”
I know some of the usual list of suspects will claim that this is just another way to deprive somebody of their constitutional rights, but I can’t see how this applies here. We’re not talking about prosecuting somebody in court, but rather terminating their employment for failure to fulfill their duties. And as a reminder, Lerner is still sitting home collecting a full, fat paycheck on your dime. The proposed rules have some other offerings as well, which might snag a few bigger fish beyond Ms. Lerner.
“If three-fourths of the congressional body to whom the testimony was given finds that a Federal employee willfully or knowingly gave false testimony in a congressional hearing, then such employee shall be terminated from employment.”
The Daily Caller points out James Clapper as a possible fish to be caught in that particular net, but I can’t help but think of a few more names. Eric Holder, anyone? Susan Rice? I might suggest Hillary, but you can’t really fire somebody who is already retired. Of course, we could be treading out onto some thin ice here. If we start passing rules saying that anyone in Washington, DC who is caught lying has to be fired, would there be anyone left in the Capital?
Wait… for a moment there I starting thinking that might be a bad thing. Clearly I need more coffee.