Washington, DC - The U.S. Senate passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (S. 743) last night by unanimous consent, sending the bill to the president. This landmark legislation, championed by Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) for over a decade, strengthens the Whistleblower Protection Act to better protect federal employees who come forward to disclose government waste, fraud, abuse, and other wrongdoing. The House of Representatives unanimously approved the bill on September 28.
The legislation authored by Senator Akaka is cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Joe Lieberman (ID-Connecticut), Carl Levin (D-Michigan), Tom Carper (D-Delaware), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Jon Tester (D-Montana), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), and Chris Coons (D-Delaware).
Representatives Darrell Issa (R-California), Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), Todd Russell Platts (R-Pennsylvania), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) were instrumental in moving the bill through the House of Representatives.
Senator Akaka said: "I am pleased that my Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act is heading to the president's desk. We must protect public servant whistleblowers who risk their careers to disclose waste, fraud, and abuse. They make the federal government more effective and save taxpayers money. I have worked on this legislation for over a decade, most recently as chairman of the federal workforce subcommittee, and I truly thank my colleagues for enacting this important legislation at this time."
Senator Collins said: "Congress has consistently supported the principle that federal employees should not be subject to prior restraint or punishment from disclosing wrongdoing. This should give federal workers the peace of mind that if they speak out, they will be protected. Full whistleblower protections will also help ensure that Congress and our Committee have access to the information necessary to conduct proper oversight."
Senator Grassley said: "This much needed update helps whistleblowers who risk their careers by sticking their necks out to simply tell the truth. The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act is an important step forward, but improvements are still needed to ensure that intelligence community whistleblowers receive the protection they deserve for uncovering fraud deep within the bureaucracy."
Senator Lieberman said: "Whistleblowers are key to improving the performance of the federal government and must be protected for having the courage to speak out about waste, fraud, and abuse. Without these protections, those closest to the problems will remain silent for fear of retaliation, and American taxpayers will pay the price."
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 will:
- clarify that any disclosure of gross waste or mismanagement, fraud, abuse, or illegal activity may be protected, but not disagreements over legitimate policy decisions;
- suspend the sole jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals over federal employee whistleblower cases for two years;
- extend Whistleblower Protection Act coverage and other non-discrimination and anti-retaliatory laws to all employees of the Transportation Security Administration;
- clarify that whistleblowers may disclose evidence of censorship of scientific or technical information under the same standards that apply to disclosures of other kinds of waste, fraud, and abuse;
- codify the anti-gag provision that has been part of every Transportation-Treasury Appropriations bill since 1988;
- establish Whistleblower Protection Ombudsmen to educate agency personnel about whistleblower rights; and
- provide the Office of Special Counsel with the independent right to file "friend of the court" briefs, or amicus briefs, with federal courts.
Senator Akaka has been Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia since 2007, and he is a senior member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.