Top Oversight Dem urges OSC to rescind 'resistance' memo
- By Chase Gunter
- Dec 07, 2018
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wants the Office of Special Counsel to rescind a memorandum cautioning feds against "resistance" and impeachment talk in the workplace.
In a Dec. 7 letter, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote OSC head Henry Kerner, asking him to withdraw a recent guidance characterizing phrases relating to the "resistance" as a violation of the Hatch Act. The purpose of the Hatch Act is to prohibit partisan political activity while on the job for most federal employees, and OSC is the entity charged with enforcing whistleblower protections and policies Hatch Act violations.
Cummings, however, called the guidance a "radical departure" from past guidance and questioned its legality, specifically taking issue with the section that said criticisms or praise of policy decisions constitute political activity.
He also objected to the broad latitude prescribed to the term "resistance" in the guidance, citing terms like "NRA, Repeal healthcare bill, Right-to-life, Pro-choice, I support the war, Peace not war" as acceptable under the Hatch Act.
"The guidance OSC issued last week blurs what has always been a bright line," he wrote. "I believe that rescinding the guidance…would be the only remedy sufficient to cure the confusion and chilling affect those documents have caused and will continue to cause if they are left in effect."
Cummings also requested a briefing from Kerner by Dec. 14, and requested documentation, drafts and communications relating to the guidance — as well as whether similar guidance was issued for the term "Tea Party" — by Dec 21.
Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.
Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.
Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.
Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter