Congress will move to block the District of Columbia’s new assisted suicide law, the chairman of the House committee that oversees the city’s government said Monday.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican who heads the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Capitol Hill takes the issue seriously and has a right to weigh in on the law, which would let patients with terminal illness diagnoses request fatal doses of drugs from their doctors.
“The assisted suicide issue is not something we take lightly,” Mr. Chaffetz said in briefing reporters about his committee’s priorities for the congressional session.
He also said he would like to find a way to move some agency buildings outside of the District because it would save money and bring the government closer to average Americans.
Mr. Chaffetz also said the federal government may need to give pay increases to some federal employees, particularly information technology staffers, to compete with the private sector.
His committee is also the chief investigative arm of the House, and he said it still has unfinished business with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails and with a number of other areas where the Obama administration has failed to cooperate fully with congressional demands.
He also is also preparing to turn his attention to the incoming Trump administration. He said he will pursue scandals and malfeasance where he finds it. “It’s a big test for me,” Mr. Chaffetz said. “I’m not here to defend him at every turn.”
Mr. Chaffetz is entering his second Congress as chairman of the oversight committee. During his busy first two years, he pursued an ongoing investigation into IRS targeting of the tea party, continued to push for access to documents on the botched Operation Fast and Furious gun-walking scheme, and demanded an accounting from the State Department on how Mrs. Clinton could have sent classified information over her secret email server.
He said the Clinton probe will also need to look at whether the FBI’s deputy director presented a conflict of interest and will need to deal with Bryan Pagliano, one of those who managed Mrs. Clinton’s secret server but who refused to comply with a subpoena to testify before the committee.
“Finishing that up is very important. It’s potentially one of the largest breaches of security in the history of the State Department. It cannot, and should never be repeated again,” he said. “How is it that so much information was able to migrate out the door? These are still open questions that we need to finish up so they don’t happen again.”
As for the District of Columbia, with oversight over the federal workforce, Mr. Chaffetz can also make himself heard.
He said his committee is probing abuses of “official time” in government employment, when workers are allowed to perform union duties while collecting taxpayer-funded salaries.
He also said he will try to bring uniformity to the definition of sexual harassment or misconduct so employees in violation of rules can be fired. He said he was stunned when told of the difficulties in firing employees who watched pornography at work, daily, for hours on end.
Mr. Chaffetz also said he will push for a reconsideration of the size of government in the Washington metropolitan region. He said other areas deserve a chance at the economic development that comes with having major department or agency headquarters. He said department leaders should be in Washington, but moving the Interior Department’s offices to Utah would bring new perspective to the powerful bureaucracy.
The first controversial move for his committee, though, is likely to be challenging the District’s assisted suicide law.
“This body, which does have jurisdiction, should be given a right to vote on that,” he said.
D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh, the Ward 3 Democrat who sponsored the Death with Dignity Act, did not respond to a request for comment, but the congressional review is not a surprise. Capitol Hill retains final say over legislation that the city adopts and has exercised that power throughout the years.
Congress has 30 legislative days to act to halt the law. That clock started ticking last week when Mr. Chaffetz received official notification that the law had been enacted.
To overturn the law, both the House and Senate must vote on a resolution of disapproval. The legislation would then go to the White House — presumably a President Trump by that time — for a final signature.
Mr. Chaffetz said Congress may try to stop another city law on paid family leave. The law hikes taxes on businesses, then uses the money to cover part of the salary for those who take time off after the birth of a child, to care for a sick relative or to take sick time themselves.
Mr. Chaffetz said his committee isn’t through with Mylan, the company that makes the EpiPen injector, a lifesaving treatment for those who suffer severe allergic reactions.
Mylan’s CEO testified last year that the company has a number of programs to lower the injector’s costs for some of its more needy customers, but members of Congress — including Mr. Chaffetz — weren’t satisfied.
“That was hogwash,” said the congressman, adding that he is considering bringing back the CEO to answer more questions.