(Alexandria, VA) – Thanks to “unanimous consent” passage today of legislation to help protect federal government whistleblowers from retaliation on the job, the House of Representatives has admirably strengthened taxpayers’ first line of defense against waste, fraud and abuse. That’s the assessment of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), and the Liberty Coalition, which offered praise to House leaders and sponsors for advancing S. 743, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) during a “pro forma” session – and for giving momentum to final enactment when the Senate returns to Washington in mid-November.
“By ensuring passage of S. 743 through unanimous consent today, House leaders correctly recognized that whistleblower protection is taxpayer protection,” said NTU Executive Vice President Pete Sepp. “Giving watchdogs inside the federal bureaucracy more teeth to defend themselves will pay major dividends for overburdened taxpayers in the future.”
“Whistleblower protection should not be a partisan issue,” said David Williams, President of TPA. “Hopefully with the passage of S. 743, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act by the House of Representatives, whistleblowers will finally get the protection they deserve.”
Congress has adopted protections shielding federal whistleblowers from retaliation several times in the past, only to have them undone by the judicial process. S. 743 would reaffirm previously enacted provisions, reverse several damaging policy precedents, and establish new safeguards, such as: creating whistleblower Ombudsmen in Inspector General Offices, removing a hostile court’s sole jurisdiction over certain whistleblower proceedings, and allowing the Office of Special Counsel to file friend of the court briefs to support whistle-blowing employees who appeal administrative rulings against them. Although the Senate previously enacted WPEA, it must vote again to pass the House’s amended version of S. 743.
“This legislation is the product of a broad and deep coalition of lawmakers, including Republican Congressmen Darrell Issa, Todd Platts, Steve Pearce, and Paul Gosar as well as Democratic Congressmen Chris Van Hollen and Elijah Cummings,” Sepp noted. “We are also grateful to Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor for working with their Democratic colleagues to ensure S. 743 received the urgent consideration it merited. Meanwhile Senators Daniel Akaka, Chuck Grassley, Susan Collins, and Joe Lieberman have worked tirelessly in their chamber to move WPEA forward. All of these Members deserve a round of applause for coming together and making measurable progress toward less costly, more efficient government.”
Last year a coalition of 15 fiscally conservative organizations, including NTU, TPA, and the Liberty Coalition sent an open letter to Congress making the case for passage of S. 743 from a limited-government perspective. The statement addressed points raised from some right-of-center lawmakers over the effect such legislation would have on national security, judicial workloads, and federal human resources procedures. The signatories noted that the credibility of lawmakers’ commitments to change the fiscal culture in Washington depends on legislation that brings reform from without and encourages reform from within … and “strengthening whistleblower protections ought to be an expeditious and non-controversial way of doing so.”
Although enacting S. 743 into law would represent major progress, more reforms will still be necessary to create whistle-blowing procedures that are effective and widespread throughout government, especially with workers in the national security field. “Passage of S. 743 in the House today was a good first step in protecting Americans against wasteful spending, criminal actions, and abuse of power by the federal government,” said Michael Ostrolenk, National Director of the Liberty Coalition. “We would like to see those same rights and protections that are now afforded to federal employees in general be provided to all national security employees as well.”
The 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) is a nonpartisan citizen group working for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (protectingtaxpayers.org) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to educating the public through the research, analysis and dissemination of information on the government’s effects on the economy. The Liberty Coalition (libertycoalition.net) works to help organize, support, and coordinate transpartisan public policy activities related to civil liberties and basic human rights. The text of the coalition letter is available at www.ntu.org.