May 9, 2017. Washington, D.C. Congressional oversight leaders obtained an internal memo sent, on May 3, from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) instructing employees to inform the agency before communicating independently with Congress.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), sent a joint letter to HHS Secretary Tom Price criticizing the memo as “potentially illegal and unconstitutional.” “Federal employees will most certainly read this instruction as a prohibition against direct communications with Congress without permission,” the May 4 letter states. The letter continues, “Protecting whistleblowers who courageously speak out is not a partisan issue-it is critical to the functioning of our government.”
The Congressional leaders express their concern that the HHS memo fails to contain exceptions for lawful protected communications with Congress and request Sec. Price to issue written guidance clarifying that employees have the right to communicate “directly and independently with Congress.”