(Alexandria, VA) – Even in a rancorous lame duck environment, Washington can still make progress toward fiscal responsibility, and the Senate’s passage of legislation to help protect federal government whistleblowers from retaliation on the job is proof positive. That’s the word from the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), which today lauded the upper chamber’s action to send the bill to the President.
“The Senate’s vote is a major achievement for one of the longest and broadest coalition efforts ever undertaken in Washington” said NTU Executive Vice President Pete Sepp. “By speaking up for those who have spoken out against waste, fraud, and abuse, we have, working together, accomplished a victory for more efficient and effective government.”
The coalition involved hundreds of citizen groups across the political spectrum as well as lawmakers of both parties in a decade-long push. In Congress, supporters earning NTU’s praise included: Republican Congressmen Darrell Issa and Todd Platts; Democratic Congressmen Chris Van Hollen and Elijah Cummings; Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT); and, House and Senate Leadership who helped ensure S. 743’s passage.
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 reaffirms previously enacted provisions, reverses several damaging policy precedents, and establishes 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.
Last year a coalition of 15 fiscally conservative organizations led by NTU sent an open letter to Congress making the case for passage of a version 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.” The legislation was amended in the House, where it was enacted by unanimous consent in a pro forma session September 28.
Although Sepp noted that S. 743 marks a substantial gain, more reforms will still be necessary in the near future. This includes creating whistle-blowing procedures that are effective and widespread throughout government, especially with workers in the national security field. Furthermore, Congress must continually clarify its intent, thereby serving notice to activist courts that might once again undermine the law’s provisions.
“NTU is proud to have joined such a diverse and committed chorus for whistleblower protections,” Sepp concluded. “We will continue to make our voices heard in Washington on this vital fiscal policy issue.”