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Project on Government Oversight

House’s Passage of Whistleblower Bill is Turning Point in Fight to Protect Truth-Tellers

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September 28, 2012

Statement of Angela Canterbury, Director of Public Policy,
Project On Government Oversight

Today, the House of Representatives did the right thing and unanimously passed a strong government accountability measure—the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA, S. 743, as amended by the House)—during a pro forma session. It seems far too rare these days to be able to praise Congress for a job well done, but today it is deserved. These thoughtful reforms will substantially improve the status quo for federal whistleblowers and taxpayers. The WPEA closes many loopholes and upgrades protections for many federal workers who blow the whistle on waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality. 

The House passage marks a turning point in the more than 14-year effort to better protect the brave truth-tellers who safeguard taxpayer dollars—an effort that has been hard-fought and fraught with controversy. The House-amended bill now returns to the Senate with unequivocal, bipartisan support.

Passage in the House was made possible by the committed cosponsors of the bill, their staff, and our allies. We cannot thank Reps. Issa (R-Calif.), Cummings (D-Md.), Platts (R-Pa.), and Van Hollen (D-Md.), and their dedicated staff enough for all of their hard work and good-faith efforts to finally make these reforms law. They have worked closely with their Senate colleagues, longtime whistleblower and federal worker champion, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), and his cosponsors Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), and their committed staff, to reach a bipartisan compromise that could pass this usually contentious Congress.

While this compromise includes many significant reforms, it certainly does not include everything we have sought.  Unfortunately, some of the reforms for which we fought hardest were the ones removed in order to get the agreement necessary for passage—jury  trials for federal whistleblowers, expanded protections for classified disclosures to Congress, and new protections for national security and intelligence community.  It was a hard pill to swallow given the amount of energy, heart, and soul invested by so many of us—and the high stakes for whistleblowers and taxpayers. So, even when the WPEA becomes law, our work will not be done. In fact, we have already begun to seek other avenues for expanding protections to those who were left out of this bill.    

But without question, every measure in the House-passed S. 743 is a common-sense reform that reflects a true bipartisan agreement to enhance protections for federal whistleblowers and increase government accountability to taxpayers. Follow the link to read a summary of the reforms in S. 743 .

We’ve never been closer to sending these critical reforms to the President’s desk for signature. POGO praises the House for pausing their campaigning to do some of the people’s important work. The Senate cosponsors are seeking to have the Senate consider the bill immediately upon their return from the election recess in November.