House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Saturday previewed plans to crack down on the government’s reach after the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) actions came under heavy scrutiny.
“"Many in Washington have forgotten the most important principle – that the federal government works for you – and not the other way around,” he said. “This week, we will address government abuse that is threatening your hard-earned paycheck, as well as your sacred liberties.”
Cantor previously announced this set of legislation earlier this month, billing it as an effort to address issues at agencies like the IRS after it had come under heavy scrutiny.
The bills would take a series of relatively minor steps to place more controls on the activities of government agencies, and several directly respond to actions taken by those agencies that have faced heavy criticism on Capitol Hill.
One bill would allow agencies to put senior officials on administrative leave without pay, after some IRS officials were suspended in the wake of the Tea Party targeting scandal, but still received a paycheck. Another would require online disclosure and prior approval for spending on conferences and retreats, after Congress criticized the IRS for a handful of pricey conferences. Another measure would crack down on bonuses for senior government employees.
“Squandering other people’s money is one of the easiest ways to lose their trust,” said Cantor. “"These measures are a step in the right direction toward restoring trust with you, the taxpayers.”
Other measures would make explicit a citizen’s right to record a conversation with a federal regulator, and require agencies to adopt customer service standards.
The IRS would face a further crackdown from another bill, which would prohibit it from enacting the president’s healthcare reform law.
"Recently all of us have been finding out more about the IRS, its activities, and its databases. The doctor’s office is the last place anyone would want to find the IRS. Your health care information is private and should remain so,” he said.
Republicans will also take a broader swing at regulations overall, pushing ahead with the REINS Act, which requires Congress to improve any major new regulations before they can be put in place.
All the measures face long odds of becoming law, given the Senate controlled by Democrats and President Obama in the White House. But Cantor insisted the measures send an important message about Republican effort to curb the government.
“You deserve a government that works for you, not against you. Enacting these reforms is one step towards rebuilding the trust in our government and faith in our economy,” he said.