The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (S. 743), as amended, this past Friday, September 28, 2012. The legislation strengthens the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) to better protect federal employees who come forward to disclose government waste, fraud, abuse, and other wrongdoing. The bill will now head to the Senate for consideration.
The legislation, authored by Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawai'i), is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Joe Lieberman (ID-Connecticut), Carl Levin (D-Michigan), Tom Carper (D-Delaware), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Jon Tester (D-Montana), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), and Chris Coons (D-Delaware).
Representatives Darrell Issa (R-California), Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), Todd Russell Platts (R-Pennsylvania), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) were instrumental in moving the bill through the House of Representatives.
Senator Akaka said: "Protecting whistleblowers is essential for effective, accountable government. Reforming whistleblower protections has been a priority of mine for years. Federal employees and the American people must feel confident that those with the courage to come forward to disclose wrongdoing will be protected."
Senator Collins said: "Congress has consistently supported the principle that federal employees should not be subject to prior restraint or punishment from disclosing wrongdoing. This should give federal workers the peace of mind that if they speak out, they will be protected. Full whistleblower protections will also help ensure that Congress and our committee have access to the information necessary to conduct proper oversight."
Senator Grassley said: "While the House bill includes much needed updates to the law, and should easily clear the Senate, I'm disappointed the bill fails to include the much needed assistance for intelligence community whistleblowers that was included in the Senate passed bill. We'll continue to fight for additional improvements to ensure these patriotic citizens receive the protection they deserve for uncovering the skeletons hiding deep in the bureaucracy."
Senator Lieberman said: "Whistleblowers are key to improving the performance of the federal government and must be protected for having the courage to speak out about waste, fraud, and abuse. Without these protections, those closest to the problems will remain silent for fear of retaliation, and American taxpayers will pay the price."
The legislation would:
clarify that any disclosure of gross waste or mismanagement, fraud, abuse, or illegal activity may be protected, but not disagreements over legitimate policy decisions;
suspend the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals sole jurisdiction over federal employee whistleblower cases for two years;
extend WPA coverage and other non-discrimination and anti-retaliatory laws to all employees of the Transportation Security Administration;
clarify that whistleblowers may disclose evidence of censorship of scientific or technical information under the same standards that apply to disclosures of other kinds of waste, fraud, and abuse;
codify the anti-gag provision that has been part of every Transportation-Treasury Appropriations bill since 1988;
establish Whistleblower Protection Ombudsmen to educate agency personnel about whistleblower rights; and
provide the Office of Special Counsel with the independent right to file "friend of the court" briefs, or amicus briefs, with federal courts.