Statement of Angela Canterbury, Director of Public Policy, Project On Government Oversight:
Finally—after more than a decade of advocacy—Congress has enacted better protections for the brave truth-tellers who safeguard taxpayer dollars. Today, the Senate unanimously passed the long-beleaguered Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA, S. 743, as amended by the House). The WPEA closes many loopholes and upgrades protections for federal workers who blow the whistle on waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality. This opening salvo to the lame duck shows that Congress can put aside partisan posturing and deliver more government accountability to the American public. These hard-fought reforms will substantially improve the status quo for federal whistleblowers and taxpayers.
Finally, the WPEA is on its way to the President’s desk for signature.
Passage in the Senate was made possible by the committed cosponsors of this legislation, their staff, and our allies. We cannot thank longtime whistleblower and federal worker champion Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) enough for his tireless efforts. He is retiring after many years of service and the WPEA certainly will be remembered as one of his most admirable legacies. We also thank the strong support of Sen. Akaka’s cosponsors, especially the help provided in finding bipartisan agreement by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), and their dedicated staff. These Senate offices worked closely with their House colleagues to pass the bill in this usually contentious Congress. Reps. Issa (R-Calif.), Cummings (D-Md.), Platts (R-Pa.), and Van Hollen (D-Md.) were the primary cosponsors the House version of the bill. The House took up the Senate-passed bill S. 743, amended it, and then passed it unanimously on September 28 during a pro forma session.
While this compromise includes many significant reforms, it certainly does not include everything we have sought—or all that is needed. Because some new protections were stripped in the House, we urged President Obama to take executive action. On October 10, the President did what Congress did not and issued a landmark directive, extending whistleblower protections to many in the intelligence and national security community for the first time. We will continue to press the next Congress to put these and other much-needed reforms into statute.
However, every provision in the bill on its way to the President for signature is a common-sense reform that reflects a true bipartisan agreement to enhance protections for federal whistleblowers and increase government accountability to taxpayers. POGO has worked closely with our partners in the Make It Safe Coalition, and together we built a movement for this reform that included hundreds of organizational supporters as diverse as the federal employee unions and Americans for Tax Reform. Finally, together, we won the political support needed from the White House and Congress to restore and modernize the Whistleblower Protection Act.
It has been a long time coming, but the federal workers will have a better chance at real justice when they suffer from retaliation for exposing waste, corruption, and abuse. These courageous workers deserve no less for their service to us and our country.
Follow the link to read a summary of the reforms in S. 743.