Sen. Charles Grassley has built a reputation as a thoughtful lawmaker who has contributed positively to a wide array of legislation during his more than three decades representing Iowa in the United States Senate. One of the Iowa Republican's most noteworthy accomplishments, however, is his commitment to finding and eliminating waste and wrongdoing in the operation of government programs.
Grassley's recent role in helping prevent officials at the Internal Revenue Service from using taxpayer monies to pay bonuses to federal employees is an excellent example.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 triggered $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board spending reductions beginning in March of this year. This sequester took place as a result of the inability of the White House and Congress to reach a more nuanced game plan for federal tax and spending policies for the current year and beyond. As a result of the sequester, many agencies tightened their belts to make certain that what monies were available for government programs were used wisely.
Discretionary monetary awards to federal employees were supposed to be limited to only those that were legally required. Grassley learned, however, that the IRS was ignoring this policy and moving ahead with plans to pay approximately $70 million in bonuses to employees that could have been avoided.
Grassley sprang into action. He demanded an explanation from the acting IRS commissioner and called for a reversal of this policy. It appears that Grassley's initiative - and similar outrage by other lawmakers - has forestalled these payments - at least for the moment.
"The good news is the IRS has agreed that all bonuses may be an inappropriate expense during the sequester," the senator said in a statement issued earlier this month. "It seems ridiculous that it took a media firestorm and congressional outrage to light a fire underneath the IRS leadership team. ... Considering its battered reputation of poor fiscal stewardship and apparent targeting of certain taxpayer groups, the IRS ought to be in full good governance mode."
Grassley is continuing to press the IRS for a frugal, long-term approach to bonuses.
"The IRS routinely claims to be short on resources," he said. "And yet, it seems to go out of its way to carve out resources for employee bonuses."
The Messenger applauds Grassley's action and perseverance. All too often, bureaucrats in Washington seem to ignore their obligation to be careful stewards of taxpayer monies. It is reassuring that Iowa's senior senator sees it as part of his mission to scrutinize spending decisions relentlessly. Our government would function far better if more elected officials shared his determination to provide appropriate rigorous oversight of programs paid for by American taxpayers.