Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., was one sponsor of the extension.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., was one sponsor of the extension. Flickr user senatormccaskill

Senate Backs Extension of Pilot Program Expanding Whistleblowers' Court Options

Bill now heads to President Obama’s desk.

The Senate on Thursday voted unanimously and without debate to extend the rights of would-be federal whistleblowers to appeal Merit Systems Protection Board rulings to an array of courts.

The All Circuit Review Extension Act (H.R. 4197), which sped through the House in July, would extend for three years a pilot plan in the 2012 Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act that allows federal employees access to appeals courts other than just the  U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Advocates argue that the federal circuit has an anti-whistleblower record.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., drew praise from the Make It Safe Coalition, an alliance of 50 organizations opposing government corruption. “The coalition believes that all circuit review was the WPEA's most significant structural reform, but the provision only approved the pilot program for two years,” the group said in a statement. “Since Congress also required the Government Accountability Office to assess the law's effectiveness after four years, it is crucial that the pilot last long enough to inform the GAO's work, and give Congress an accurate assessment of its value.”

Results to date, the group said, “are that the pilot is working as needed and without side effects, such as flooding other courts.”

(Image via Flickr user senatormccaskill)