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Public Statements

S. 743, The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CUMMINGS. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. This bill will significantly expand the protections available to government whistleblowers. Whistleblowers risk their careers to challenge abuses of power and the mismanagement of government resources. Protecting the rights of whistleblowers is critical for rooting out waste and fraud within the government.

I applaud the leadership and commitment of all of the Members of Congress and the advocates who have worked on this legislation. The bill we are considering today was introduced by Senator Akaka. This bill should be a proud addition to his legacy as he closes out his long and distinguished career in Congress. Congressman Todd Platts and Congressman Chris Van Hollen also deserve credit for getting us here today. They have both worked to find a bipartisan path forward on this bill. I also want to thank Chairman Darrell Issa for working with me and the other Members to get this bill to the House floor.

Here are just a few of the ways this bill strengthens current law. This bill will protect all lawful disclosures of waste, fraud, and abuse. Court decisions have narrowed the scope of protected disclosures in a way that the Office of Special Counsel says handcuffs it in its efforts to protect whistleblowers. For example, federal employees are currently not protected for blowing the whistle in the course of their job duties. This bill closes that loophole so that federal auditors and safety inspectors will be protected when they blow the whistle.

This bill provides whistleblower protections to Transportation Security Administration employees. Current law leaves TSA employees unprotected. Giving Transportation Security Officers the same protections as other federal employees will encourage the disclosure of issues that may threaten the safety of our airports.

Under this bill, whistleblowers can appeal a decision of the Merit Systems Protection Board to any federal court of appeals. Currently, all appeals go to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals which has consistently misinterpreted the intent of Congress with regard to the Whistleblower Protection Act.

This bill also protects government scientists for disclosures about agency censorship or other problems with the integrity of the scientific process.
This bill does a lot of good things but I will be honest. The bill that we are considering today is not as strong as I hoped it would be. Even if this bill passes we will still have work to do. We need to provide meaningful rights to whistleblowers in the intelligence community and we need to amend the law to allow whistleblowers the ability to go to court and have their case heard by a jury. I know this bill represents a compromise based on the political realities of today. But the fight is not over. I will continue to fight for the protections that are not in this bill and hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me in that fight.

The journey of this legislation has been a long and frustrating one for the advocates of whistleblower protections who have been trying for almost a decade to get a strong bill enacted. We have been so close so many times only to have another roadblock get in the way. Mr. Speaker, I hope that today is different. I hope that this bill will have a clear path to the President's desk and become law. I urge every Member of Congress to stand up for whistleblowers, to stand up for good government, to pass this legislation, and then to join me tomorrow to continue the fight for whistleblower protections.

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