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Bill Would Compromise Offices, 5 Inspectors General SayBill Would Compromise Ability to Investigate, 5 IGs Say
"It is not surprising that some inspectors general would be critical of a piece of legislation that will hold them to a higher standard and demand more from them," said Emily Barocas, spokeswoman for Rep. John B. Larson (D-Conn.), the bill's lead sponsor. "This bill gives them more resources and more independence, but it also requires them to do their jobs and be accountable."
Debate over the bill speaks to the balancing act required of inspectors general who must perform investigations while maintaining cordial lines of communication with agency leadership or the White House. Several approached about the issue declined to speak publicly about their roles.
Though the bill passed the House, its fate in the Senate is uncertain. Both chambers continue to probe the Amtrak and ITC situations and an allegation of possible interference with inspector general investigations at the Library of Congress.
Walpin's dismissal drew the most attention, however. Obama dismissed him after the agency's bipartisan board of directors contacted the White House counsel's office about his behavior at a May board meeting. In an initial letter to lawmakers, Obama stated that he had lost confidence in Walpin. Several lawmakers objected, and the White House provided documents outlining its reasons.
Several lawmakers of both parties have since stated their agreement with Obama's decision, while Walpin maintains the firing was unjustified.
Some observers say the firestorm could have been avoided if Congress had adopted an even stronger version of legislation passed last year to bolster the 1978 Inspector General Act. The original law codified the existence of federal watchdogs.
Last fall's amendments require the president to inform lawmakers in writing of a decision to terminate an inspector general 30 days before removal. The initial bill required the president to list specific reasons for any removal, but the Bush administration objected to the provisions, arguing they challenged executive authority.
For its part, the current White House notes that then-Sen. Obama cosponsored and voted for last year's legislation and that most of the recent incidents involved agency leaders and watchdogs appointed by the previous administration. Aides also note that most of the current IG investigations involve watchdogs not at the presidential appointment level.