- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 7, 2016

The House passed legislation Thursday intended to establish rules for firing federal employees who access pornography from government computers.

Lawmakers approved the Government Reform and Improvement Act by a 241-191 vote Thursday morning, advancing a package of measures that includes the Eliminating Pornography from Agencies Act brought by Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican.

Introduced in 2015, the act directs the Office of Management and Budget to draft guidelines that would prohibit federal employees from accessing pornographic or explicit material on government computers and devices. An exemption would apply to any material downloaded for investigative purposes.

“It’s kind of ridiculous that we have to legislate this, but it is such a pervasive problem in our work on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee,” the panel’s chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, said Thursday.

“We have heard numerous examples of this problem,” Mr. Chaffetz added.

When Mr. Meadows proposed the bill last year, he noted that a 2014 Inspector General report revealed that a single worker employed by the Environmental Protection Agency had downloaded thousands of pornographic files onto his government computer. Despite that revelation, however, Mr. Meadows acknowledged that the employee was not immediately fired.

“Over the last several months it has become far too obvious that the type of behavior that was first highlighted at the EPA has been discovered over and over again, across a host of agencies. To ignore this issue would not only condone an abuse of taxpayers’ dollars, but also embrace an unhealthy workplace,” Mr. Meadows said when his proposal cleared the Oversight committee last March.

Other legislation included within the Government Reform and Improvement Act include a measure authorizing agency heads to block access to potentially malicious websites, and another requiring the IRS to maintain records for at least three years.

The Obama administration has previously threatened to veto the package, arguing its provisions “would arbitrarily prohibit the issuance of key rules and thus prevent the implementation of laws passed by the Congress through otherwise lawful, well-justified, and beneficial regulations,” The Hill reported.

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