Oversight

Bill would make 'taking the Fifth' a firing offense for feds

Mo Brooks

Rep. Mo Brooks has introduced legislation that would make invoking Fifth Amendment rights a firing offense for feds.

Federal employees who refuse to answer questions in congressional hearings would have their employment terminated under a new bill proposed by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.).

The move comes in the wake of Internal Revenue Service Lois Lerner's appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform committee to testify about her role in scrutinizing the applications of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status. At the hearing, Lerner delivered a brief statement, invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, and was asked to leave. Lerner is currently on administrative leave as a result.

Under Brooks' legislation, a federal employee who "refuses to answer questions specifically, directly, and narrowly relating to the official duties of such employee, without being required to waive immunity" would be terminated. The rule would also apply to employees who refused to testify before Congress even with a grant of immunity. Witnesses whose testimony was deemed to be "willfully or knowingly" false by a three-fourths majority of a committee would also be terminated.

"This legislation is constitutional and necessary to enable Congress to provide proper oversight for the American people," Brooks said in a statement to The Hill.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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