Grassley, McCaskill Work to Extend Whistleblower Protections to Congressional Employees
Senators Chuck Grassley and Claire McCaskill today said that they are working to keep Congress living by the same rules as everybody else. They have introduced legislation that would give the same whistleblower protections to employees in the legislative branch as to those afforded in the executive branch of government.
“Americans want an accountable and responsible Congress. Whistleblowers can be a key component to ensuring that misdeeds are uncovered. They are often the only ones who know the skeletons hidden deep in the closets. It takes courage to stand up and point out wrongdoing and it’s unacceptable that people would be retaliated against for doing the right thing," Grassley said. "Whistleblowers in the executive branch have helped me do my job of oversight. It’s simply not fair, nor is it good governance for Congress to enact whistleblower protections on the other branches of government without giving its own employees the same consideration. Congress needs to practice what it preaches."
“Whistleblowers are the eyes and ears that expose some of the worst cases of fraud, waste and abuse of power,” said McCaskill. “Since I arrived in
Washington , I have made it a goal to protect watchdogs who keep government and industry on the straight and narrow, and Congress should be no exception. We need to make sure that congressional employees have the same protections from retaliation as their colleagues in the executive branch.”
The legislation would help protect legislative branch employees from retaliation because those individuals disclosed information that they reasonably believed is evidence of a violation of any law, rule, or regulation.
Earlier this year, Grassley and McCaskill teamed up to move a bill that would put in place provisions to better monitor how the $700 billion dollars of the TARP program are spent by increasing the power and authority of the Special Inspector General created to oversee the program.
Grassley is the author of the Congressional Accountability Act which was signed into law in 1995. This law guaranteed the same rights for congressional employees as private sector employees and ensured that members of Congress feel the impact of laws applied to private sector employers and small business owners across the country. The law brought Congress under major laws which address wage and hour questions, occupational safety and health issues.
Here is a copy of Grassley’s prepared remarks from the Senate floor upon introduction.
Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley
Introduction of the Congressional Whistleblower Protection Act Of 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Mr. President, I’m back on the floor today to introduce another bill as part of my accountability in government week. Yesterday, I introduced the False Claims Act Clarification Act to help restore the original intent of the most successful law the Government utilizes to protect taxpayer dollars from fraud, waste, and abuse. One key component I added to the False Claims Act when it was amended in 1986, was allowing whistleblowers to file cases on behalf of the Government when they are aware of fraud or abuse of taxpayer funds.
Whistleblowers are the key to unlocking the secrets of wrongdoing because they have access to information about how the frauds were perpetrated and can help lead authorities in the right direction to uncover the frauds. However, for their brave efforts, they are often the victims of retaliation and are removed from their jobs by supervisors who don’t want the wrongdoing uncovered. I’ve often said whistleblowers are as welcome as skunks at a Sunday picnic, despite the fact that all they do is bring forward the truth. This is wrong and that’s why I’ve supported strong whistleblower protection laws during my time in Congress.
The landmark whistleblower law is the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, provided rights and remedies to Executive Branch whistleblowers that are the victims of retaliation. I proudly cosponsored that bill, but like many laws that are 20 years old, it needs to be updated. So, I have cosponsored legislation introduced by Senator Akaka to do just that. However, that law also needs to be extended to employees of the Legislative and Judicial branches of Government. I’m here today to start that discussion and introduce legislation that will provide the same whistleblower protection rights currently extended to Executive Branch employees to the Legislative Branch.
I’m pleased to be joined by Senator McCaskill in introducing the Congressional Whistleblower Protection Act of 2009. This important legislation simply adds whistleblower protections to the Legislative Branch by incorporating the Whistleblower Protection Act into the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, a law I authored to bring Congress in line with many labor laws and workplace protections. I have long believed Congress should practice what it preaches, and this legislation will do just that.
A theme that has dominated this new Congress, as well as the elections this past November, is accountability and responsibility in Washington. In most instances, the only reason we discover waste or fraud is because employees are brave enough to stand up to the wrongdoers and expose their offenses. Without these whistleblowers, the American taxpayer would continue to foot the bill.
This bill is long overdue. I have previously introduced similar legislation but, unfortunately, those bills were never brought up in Committee. I hope that the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will examine this legislation closely and expeditiously report it to the full Senate so we can ensure employees of the Legislative Branch that they are protected from any reprisals related to protected whistleblowing.
Now, it’s been a number of years since the Congressional Accountability Act was signed into law by President Clinton, so I’d like to remind my colleagues why we passed this law. It was a time very similar to today, the American people were demanding more from their elected officials in Washington and wanted accountability and transparency in all branches of Government. I believed then, as I do now, that Congress needs to put its money where its mouth is and apply the various labor and employment laws that we enforce on other branches of government and businesses all across the country to ourselves. The Congressional Accountability Act did just that.
It applied a number of important laws to Congress, including, the Fair Labor Standards Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination and Employment Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, the Rehabilitation Act, as well as some provisions of title 5 related to Federal service labor-management relations. It also created the Office of Compliance in the Legislative Branch that oversees application of these important laws to the Legislative Branch and ensures that employee’s rights under these laws are protected. While the Congressional Accountability Act was a good start, the Office of Compliance has recommended additional laws be applied to the Legislative Branch, including the Whistleblower Protection Act.
We have already taken the steps to protect whistleblowers in the Executive Branch. It doesn’t make sense not to extend these same protections to whistleblowers in our own backyard. My bill will, very simply, give congressional employees the same protections that workers in the other branches of government already possess. It does this by simply adding the Whistleblower Protection Act to the preexisting list of statutes that are applied to the Legislative Branch by the Congressional Accountability Act. This is a straightforward and simple solution to ensure that employees of the Legislative Branch are not without vital whistleblower protections.
I hope my colleagues will join me and Senator McCaskill in supporting this bill to ensure that those who help us in the fight to hold government accountable are not punished for their efforts.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.