Lawmakers Warn HHS Against Restricting Federal Employees From Communicating With Congress

Two lawmakers are questioning an HHS memo that they say appears to violate the rights of federal employees to communicate directly with Congress.

Two lawmakers recently sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price with concerns about an internal agency memo that appeared to restrict agency employees from communicating directly with Congress.

The letter said, “Federal employees have a constitutional right to communicate directly with Congress and ‘petition the Government for a redress of grievances,’ a fact the memorandum fails to note.”

The memo in question was sent by HHS Chief of Staff Lance Leggitt. The relevant part said:

To ensure that our efforts are coordinated, any communications with Members of Congress and staff should not occur without prior consultation with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Legislation (ASL). This includes requests for calls, meetings, briefings, technical assistance, policy development, hearings, oversight, detailees, etc. The ASL is responsible for ensuring Secretary Price’s involvement on appropriate matters.

In their letter, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) said, “The attached memorandum contains no exception whatsoever for lawful, protected communications with Congress. In its current form, employees are likely to interpret it as a prohibition, and will not necessarily understand their rights.”

The letter also says that the memo could potentially be a violation of federal law by placing these restrictions on federal employees.

The letter goes on to suggest HHS provide written guidance to agency employees to make them aware of their right to communicate directly with Congress.

A copy of the letter is included below.

2017-05-04 Letter to Tom Price Re: HHS Congressional Communications

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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