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Grassley to introduce bill Thursday to strengthen IG law after firings

Grassley to introduce bill Thursday to strengthen IG law after firings
© Roll Call/Pool

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley asks Blinken to provide potential conflicts involving John Kerry Overnight Defense: Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform | US troops begin leaving Afghanistan | Biden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform MORE (R-Iowa) will introduce legislation on Thursday to strengthen the laws governing the firing of government watchdogs and put new restrictions on who a president can appoint as an acting inspector general. 

Grassley, who announced his plan in a Washington Post op-ed, said his bill "beefs up" the requirement that a president give Congress a 30-day heads up that he will fire an inspector general. 

The bill will "clear up any ambiguity about Congress’s expectations when presidents decide to fire inspectors general. This legislation beefs up the mandate of advance notification to require 'substantive rationale, including detailed and case-specific reasons' — terms that the court said was missing from the 2008 law," Grassley wrote in the op-ed. 

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A spokesman for Grassley said that the bill will have the backing of at least four Republican senators and four Democratic senators when it is introduced on Thursday. 

The decision to try to add the requirement that a president hand over "substantive rationale" comes after Grassley has criticized President TrumpDonald TrumpSanders: Reinstating SALT deduction 'sends a terrible, terrible message' GOP braces for wild week with momentous vote One quick asylum fix: How Garland can help domestic violence survivors MORE for not giving Congress a detailed enough explanation for how he fired intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson and State Department IG Steven Linick.  

Grassley announced earlier this month that he was putting a hold on two of Trump's nominees because the administration provided an "inadequate response" over the two firings. 

White House counsel Pat Cipollone told Grassley that Trump "acted within his constitutional and statutory authority." But Grassley warned earlier this month that he was still not satisfied, saying the White House's response had "no explanation for the removal" of Atkinson or Linick.

Grassley's forthcoming bill will also require that an acting inspector general be "selected from senior ranks within the watchdog community," include safeguards on investigations that were already ongoing during IG turnover and include limits on how a president can use administrative leave after he announces that he will fire an IG. Both Linick and Atkinson were placed on administrative leave after Trump notified Congress that he was firing them. 

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"This bill uses lessons from history to empower good IGs while respecting the constitutional separation of powers. Inspectors general who aren’t up to snuff can still face consequences. After all, government is less accountable if bad IGs are allowed to stay in office," Grassley wrote on Thursday. 

"It’s really this simple: If inspectors general are doing good work, they should stay; if not, they should go. If the president is going to remove an inspector general, there’d better be a good reason. And there’s absolutely no good reason to leave an IG seat vacant for an extended period. These guidelines apply to all administrations, Republican or Democrat," he added.