Several Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation that would disarm enforcement agents from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Republican Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana introduced the No Funds for Armed Regulators Act of 2023 on June 30, joined by seven co-sponsors. The bill would disallow the use of taxpayer dollars to hire or retain armed regulatory enforcement agents in the EPA, DOL and IRS if it becomes law.
“Deep state bureaucrats continue to push their executive authority into every corner of America, treading heavily upon your rights and devouring your wealth,” Higgins said in a June 30 press release. “This bill is a key step in pushing back against the oppressive tactics being used to enforce regulatory policies.”
Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa introduced her own bill on June 30 which would expressly bar the IRS from buying weapons or equipping its agents with firearms, titled the Why Does the IRS Need Guns Act.
The IRS had approximately 2,100 armed agents in its enforcement division as of April 2023, according to a report from Open The Books. The agency bought $10 million of weaponry and related equipment between the onset of COVID-19 and April 2023, including purchases amounting to $5 million in 2021 alone, according to Open The Books.
The EPA currently has 150 enforcement agents who are allowed to carry firearms for their duties, according to an EPA spokesperson cited by E&E News. There were a further 48 agents in the EPA’s inspector general’s office allowed to carry as of November 2017, according to a 2018 report from the Government Accountability Office.
“There was a pretty extreme edge to the regulatory enforcement agents that interacted with my constituents, especially in rural areas,” Higgins said, according to E&E News. “I was surprised to find that these regulatory agencies had armed police officers rolling up into my constituents’ properties to enforce their regulations.”
The exact number of DOL agents who are authorized to carry firearms is unclear.
Higgins indicated that the bill’s language will allow for easy amendment, meaning it could be included in a larger legislative package in the future, according to E&E News. Additionally, the bill’s language could allow a future iteration of the bill to widen its scope beyond the three agencies it currently targets, according to E&E News.
Congressional Republicans were able to reduce new funding for IRS enforcement by $21.4 billion from the initially-proposed $80 billion as a part of the debt ceiling negotiations in early June, according to E&E News.
A spokesperson for the IRS told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the agency generally does not comment on pending legislation.
The EPA and DOL did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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