The House last week moved to repeal an executive order by President Joe Biden that critics say could cause federal employees to violate a law prohibiting partisan politicking on the taxpayers’ dime.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre alluded Monday to the law, the Hatch Act, in avoiding an answer to a reporter’s direct question.
Yet Jean-Pierre also touted an executive action by Biden that directed federal government agencies to drive up voting.
A reporter had asked Jean-Pierre, in an apparent reference to the 2024 election: “Does the White House believe that additional election monitors are necessary in swing states across the country?”
Biden’s Justice Department ordered election monitors to 64 locations ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, mostly in “battleground” areas crucial to Democrats.
Jean-Pierre punted on a direct answer to avoid speaking directly on an election, which she said could violate the Hatch Act—the law prohibiting federal employees from using goverrnment time or resources to advance partisan politics or candidates.
“I want to be careful since we’re talking about upcoming elections. I’m assuming you’re talking about 2024 and what we’re going to potentially be doing,” Jean-Pierre told the reporter. “So I’m going to have to refer you to the [Biden reelection] campaign.”
The independent Office of Special Counsel accused Jean-Pierre and deputy press secretary Andrew Bates of acting “contrary” to official guidance on the Hatch Act, NBC News first reported last week. This came after the OSC previously determined Jean-Pierre had been violating the Hatch Act in the run-up to the 2022 elections by repeatedly using the term “MAGA” as a derogatory adjective for Republicans. The term is an acronym for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
However, the White House press secretary went on Monday to refer to Biden’s Executive Order 14019, which he signed in March 2021.
“Obviously for us, we’ve taken actions on the federal level in making sure voting is accessible,” Jean-Pierre said. “The president signed an executive action early on [about] what we can do on the federal level to make sure that voting is a lot easier for folks and they are educated on what is available to them.”
She again added: “But I want to be really careful, certainly, talking about anything that is related to 2024.”
Last week, the House Administration Committee advanced a measure for consideration by the full House that would overturn Biden’s executive order on getting out the vote, which called for federal agencies to partner with private “voter advocacy groups” and develop “strategic plans.”
The House bill also would require that every plan made under the executive order be submitted to Congress for review.
Since Biden’s executive order in March 2021, the House Administration Committee, in conjunction with several other committees, has sent letters to 12 federal agencies asking for information about their implementation of the order. No Biden administration agency has responded to congressional inquiries, however.
Several Republican lawmakers have said that requiring federal agencies to work with political operatives who are involved in get-out-the-vote campaigns could violate the Hatch Act.
Under Biden’s executive order, the Internal Revenue Service, the Obamacare exchanges, and the Bureau of Prisons are among agencies active in promoting voting, according to a report last spring by a coalition of liberal groups led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, when the order was 2 years old.
Biden administration agencies have refused to be transparent about their strategic plans on the voter registration initiative, or what private organizations they’re working with.
The Daily Signal first reported that those private organizations included the American Civil Liberties Union, a liberal legal group, and Demos, a liberal think tank. Biden’s executive order calls for “soliciting and facilitating approved, nonpartisan third-party organizations and state officials to provide voter-registration services on agency premises.”
Biden’s Justice Department also has refused to release its strategic plan to fulfill Biden’s order, citing “presidential privilege,” in a lawsuit brought by the Foundation for Government Accountability, a watchdog group. A total of 15 secretaries of state, who are the top election officials in states, publicly asked for more transparency from the Biden administration in how agencies carry out the order.
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