House clears Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act

Feng Yu/Shutterstock.com

With most members out on the campaign trail, the House on Friday approved final passage of the long-awaited Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S. 743), a set of 10 reforms intended to clarify the difference between policy disputes and whistleblowing.

By unanimous consent, the chamber approved an amended version of the bill that cleared the Senate in May , sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia.

It would expand the types of employee disclosures of violations of laws, rules or regulations that are protected and beef up employee rights. It also would broaden coverage to employees of the major intelligence agencies and the Transportation Security Administration, prohibiting the revocation of a security clearance in retaliation for a protected whistleblower disclosure. And it would expand the rights of the Office of Special Counsel to file friend-of-the-court briefs.

The bipartisan bill would strengthen authority for reviews by the Merit Systems Protection Board and provide whistleblowing employees with more access to their agency’s inspector general. It would establish whistleblower protection ombudsmen to educate agency personnel about whistleblower rights.

The bill now returns to the Senate, where it is up for consideration in a November lame-duck session. In the previous Congress, a version of the bill died in a December session.

“For too many of those federal employees who spoke up to expose wasteful spending and criminal behavior in the past it was true: no good deed goes unpunished,” said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in a statement. “It is a sad truth that many of these whistleblowers faced reprisal because they embarrassed those in power who were happy to waste taxpayer money or violate the law. By passing the Whistleblower Protection and Enhancement Act today, the House of Representatives sent a clear message to those who help us protect the American people and their hard-earned tax dollars: We stand beside you.”

Good-government groups hailed the vote, though some lamented favored components that were removed from the final version.

Tom Devine, legal director for the nonprofit Government Accountability Project, said in a statement, “The good news is that the whistleblower rights in this bill are the strongest in history for federal workers. …. The bad news is that our work is not done. Demands by a few key Republicans removed provisions for jury trials that Congress has provided for nearly all corporate whistleblowers, and national security reforms to prevent classified leaks through protection for those who act responsibly within government’s institutional checks and balances.” He said President Obama is likely to sign the bill.

The nonprofit Project on Government Oversight also supports the bill. POGO analyst Angela Canterbury said in a blog post that “every reform in the scaled-back version of 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…..Unfortunately, every day that the bill does not become law means the public is deprived the benefit of disclosures from federal government whistleblowers about fraud, waste and abuses, which could remain ongoing..

The Office of Special Counsel said it “strongly supports” the bill, arguing that it “will help OSC perform its good government mission and protect federal employees from unlawful retaliation.” The act’s 10 key reforms, it added, “will make the Whistleblower Protection Act stronger than at any point in its history.”

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley called on the Senate to act quickly during the lame-duck. “The public relies on federal workers to alert us to waste, abuse and threats to public health and safety,” she said in a statement. “This legislation goes far in providing them with the protections they need in order to protect us.”

(Image via Feng Yu/Shutterstock.com)

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.