Senator Tom Cotton objected to Durbin's request
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today on the Senate floor requested unanimous consent (UC) to pass bipartisan legislation to expand the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General to include alleged DOJ attorney misconduct. Currently, the DOJ Inspector General (IG) has no authority to investigate professional misconduct by DOJ lawyers. DOJ is the only agency whose IG has such a jurisdictional carve-out. The bipartisan Inspector General Access Act would simply strike this loophole, which leads to an unfair double standard where every DOJ employee – including FBI and DEA agents, U.S. Marshals, and federal prison guards – can be investigated by the DOJ IG except DOJ lawyers. Last Congress, the legislation was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 21-1 vote. Companion legislation passed the House of Representatives unanimously in 2019, and it passed the House again earlier this year.
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), the lead sponsor of the legislation with Durbin, and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined Durbin in making the request. Senator Tom Cotton (R-OK) objected to the request.
“In 1988, Congress created several new Inspectors General, including an Inspector General for the Department of Justice. The IG oversees Justice Department’s components ranging from the FBI to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to the Drug Enforcement Administration. But there is a problem. There is a loophole. There is one clear omission when it comes to the authority of Inspectors General. Listen, the Justice Department Inspector General cannot investigate professional misconduct by Justice Department lawyers,” Durbin said. “For years, literally decades, and across administrations, other Senators before us, and Senator Lee and myself now, have worked to close the lawyer loophole with our Inspector General Access Act… No Attorney General from either political party should be insulated from independent scrutiny by the Inspector General, and no Attorney General should have veto power over the Inspector General’s authority to investigate Department of Justice attorneys, whether that Attorney General is a Democrat or a Republican.”
After Cotton objected to Durbin’s request, Durbin stated, “I’m disappointed by the objection by the Senator of Arkansas. This has overwhelming bipartisan support in the House and in the Senate. We had an opportunity to make history today, and we’ve missed that opportunity for the moment… We’ll return to this. I’m glad to have the bipartisan support of Senators Lee and Grassley… I believe that if we are going to apply this standard of IG responsibility for lawyers’ activity across federal government, there’s no reason to make an exception for the Department of Justice.”
Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.
Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.
Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.