The Senate's Christmas Present to Public Servants

On Tuesday afternoon, December 17, by unanimous consent the Senate approved S. 274, legislation to restore and strengthen the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) for federal government workers. That good government law has been gutted and discredited by 13 years of hostile court rulings, which made it nearly impossible to qualify for protection under the law. S. 274 also plugs a government accountability loophole created last year when the Supreme Court’s Garcetti v. Ceballos decision canceled constitutional free speech rights for government workers carrying out their job duties. The Senate action follows House approval of similar legislation, setting the stage for the two chambers to reconcile their legislation and present a composite bill for final approval. President Bush already has promised to veto stronger whistleblower rights, but an overwhelming veto-proof majority in the House and unanimous consent approval in the Senate indicate that Congress would likely be able to over-ride a presidential veto.

The Senate has given a Christmas present to the taxpayers. This was possible because of a marathon commitment to public service by key Senate offices. Now Congress must act promptly to convene a conference committee and get this reform in the law books, so it can start making a difference. Until then government employees are virtually defenseless when harassed for defend ingthe public against fraud, waste and abuse. From October 1994-October 2007, whistleblowers had a 2-183 record at the Federal Circuit with a monopoly on appellate review of WPA cases for decisions on the merits.

The WPA reform was first introduced in 2000, but has been struggling for eight years to achieve this year's House and Senate approvals. Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), with Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME), have led Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee efforts to pass the “Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act.

More in Senate

GOP gets bad news on ObamaCare repeal

Read more »