Watchdog: Obama must punish Sebelius or Congress can impeach her

September 17, 2012

In a Monday memorandum, government watchdog group Cause of Action argued that President Barack Obama must fire - or at least suspend for 30 days without pay - Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for her Hatch Act violation or his top-ranking health care official could face impeachment.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel said last Wednesday that Sebelius violated the law when she publicly endorsed Obama's re-election and North Carolina Lieutenant Gov. Walter Dalton's gubernatorial primary in a multi-way race during a taxpayer-funded public event on Feb. 25, 2012. The standard penalty for violating the Hatch Act is termination. But, the White House has suggested that Obama will offer Sebelius special treatment and let her keep her job.

According to OSC, any "employee who violates the Hatch Act shall be removed from their position, and funds appropriated for the position from which removed thereafter may not be used to pay the employee or individual."

Federal government employees who are not politically appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate may have their punishment lessened from termination "if the Merit Systems Protection Board finds by unanimous vote that the violation does not warrant removal, a penalty of not less than a 30-day suspension without pay shall be imposed by direction of the board."

But, according to Cause of Action executive director Dan Epstein, since Sebelius is a Senate-confirmed presidential appointee, she isn't entitled to such a review.

"Thus the point is that by close of business on Sept. 12, 2012, the president has been informed of a Hatch Act violation and yet has decided not to fire Sebelius," Epstein said. "The president has therefore decided to overlook the improper political activities of his appointees when in their official capacities. He has effectively said it is okay to politicize the executive branch."

According to the Monday Cause of Action memo, "[i]n an unprecedented situation like the present one, the President takes ‘appropriate action' by substituting himself into the role of the MSPB - in other words ‘appropriate action' means that the president must suspend Secretary Sebelius for at least 30 days or remove her from office."

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