IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Rep. Kelly Op-ed in Pittsburgh-Tribune Review Demands Government Accountability

Jul 24, 2013 Issues: Government Oversight and Reform

“Americans deserve a government they can trust again”

WASHINGTON, DC — Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, authored the following op-ed which was published in the Sunday, July 21, 2013, edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Rep. Kelly is the author of H.R. 2579, the Government Employee Accountability Act, which he introduced on June 28, 2013.

Let’s stop government abuse

By Mike Kelly

In Federalist No. 51, James Madison wrote, “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

In recent months, Americans have regretfully been reminded that our government is certainly not run by angels and that further “controls” on those in Washington are direly needed.

The worst casualty of the outrageous targeting practices by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has no doubt been the trust of the American people in their own government. At a time when faith in public institutions (barring the military) is already depressingly low, the unfolding of the IRS scandal has only confirmed the worst suspicions about those entrusted with power in Washington.

In a republic where the people are not ruled but represented by elected leaders, confidence in them and their obedience to the law is critical. For good reason, after Madison's initial admonition, he advised in the very next sentence that in administering a government like ours, we must “oblige it to control itself.”

With so many overreaches of federal power still fresh in the air, renewed action to bring accountability back to our government has rarely been so necessary. It's time to end the abuse and oblige Washington to control itself and its operators.

For this reason, my colleagues and I in the House of Representatives are presenting “Stop Government Abuse Week,” a major part of which will be my recently re-introduced Government Employee Accountability (GEA) Act. It would give federal agencies the proper authority to enforce discipline whenever an official betrays the public's trust or breaks the law.

Beneath all the frustrations of the IRS scandal is the fact that for too long too many federal employees have had the luxury of playing by different rules than the hardworking taxpayers who fund their paychecks. On Main Street, negligent employees are reprimanded, demoted or fired. In Washington, they're too often reassigned, promoted or put on paid vacation.

When I first introduced the GEA Act last year, it was in response to the shockingly lavish spending carried out by the General Services Administration (GSA) at a taxpayer-funded retreat in Las Vegas to the tune of nearly $900,000. It turned out that the retreat's organizer — GSA regional commissioner Jeff Neely — was being paid handsomely at taxpayer expense even after being placed under investigation and on administrative leave.

Why? Because, as the agency informed me at the time, there existed no mechanism to revoke Mr. Neely's salary — or to carry out any other consequences.

The legislation I proposed to correct this problem passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 402-2. Unfortunately, for dubious reasons, it was killed in the Senate.

Fast-forward to 2013, when a new set of high-ranking, scandal-engulfed bureaucrats — IRS officials Lois Lerner and Holly Paz — are taken off the job but kept on the government's payroll.

This stunning lack of accountability is unacceptable and justifies a full reconsideration of the GEA Act, which would finally stop those under investigation from receiving salaries paid for by the very public whose trust they betrayed, as well as allow reckless government employees to be fired on the spot.

Of course, this is just the first step to restoring accountability to Washington and stopping the seemingly rampant abuse of out-of-control federal authorities. But Americans deserve a government they can trust again, and their representatives are obliged to do whatever it takes to give it to them.

Mike Kelly, R-Butler, represents Pennsylvania's 3rd Congressional District.