For Immediate Release
Tom Devine, Legal Director
Phone: 202.408.0034 ext 124, cell 240.888.4080
Angela Canterbury, Director of Advocacy for the Congress Watch division of Public Citizen
David Colapinto, General Counsel, National Whistleblower Center
Phone: 202.342.6980, 202.342.1903
On Eve of Bailout Vote, White House Pulling Strings to Kill Accountability Bill
Anonymous Republican Senators Place Secret Holds on Whistleblower Protections
WASHINGTON - In both the House and Senate, the White House has been successful in convincing a handful of Republican lawmakers to block votes on a final Whistleblower Protection Act bill.
In the Senate, legislation that would strengthen whistleblower protections for government employees has been blocked through secret "holds" by multiple unknown senators from the Republican Caucus. "Holds" are a Senate procedure that allows one member to temporarily freeze action on legislation.
"There is no excuse for a secret hold to kill an anti-secrecy, government accountability reform," said Tom Devine, Legal Director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP). "It appears a small handful of Senators are following the marching orders of the Bush administration, which strongly opposes efforts to protect federal workers who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse." The White House has threatened to veto Senate and House whistleblower bills.
Additionally, the House Republican leadership, even as it strongly urges its members to vote for a $700 billion corporate bailout, has also blocked House votes on the Whistleblower Protection Act reform, nicknamed the "Taxpayer Protection Act." Whistleblower protection has strong bipartisan support, and is viewed by open government and taxpayer advocates as a necessary accountability foundation for the bailout measure.
"On the eve of the final bailout vote, there could not be a more critical moment to support whistleblower protections for government employees," stated Devine. "The taxpayers funding the proposed bailout deserve to know that $700 billion - should it be handed over to the Treasury Secretary - will be spent wisely and according to the law. Whistleblowers with genuine rights will make sure that happens. Unfortunately, under the current system, whistleblowers are defenseless."
Last year, by overwhelming margins, the House passed a whistleblower bill, H.R. 985, sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Tom Davis (R-VA), Todd Platts (R-PA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). The Senate unanimously passed S. 274, its version of whistleblower protection legislation last December.
Late last month, a bipartisan group of Senate offices supporting whistleblower rights for government employees came to agreement on a final whistleblower bill.
Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and George Voinovich (R-OH) are leading the Senate effort. The offices are attempting to move their legislation to the House of Representatives for final passage before Congress leaves to campaign at the end of the week. The House would likely again provide overwhelming bipartisan support and pass the Senate compromise bill, but only if the Administration-recruited holdouts would allow an up-or-down vote.
The White House has strongly opposed whistleblower protections, despite the fact that federal workers are the country's best defense against waste, fraud and abuse and the suppression of research and technical information. The White House has promised to veto any whistleblower protection legislation.
Opposition from a few Republican lawmakers persists despite the strong support of conservative, taxpayer advocate organizations that recently sent a letter to Congress, imploring it to act on the whistleblower legislation before adjournment. The organizations stressed, "Congress would be doing a disservice to taxpayer advocates if it were to start from scratch" on whistleblower legislation next year, especially as congressional offices consider voting to authorize hundreds of billions of dollars in government expenditures in the bailout bill.
Conservative organizations supporting the whistleblower legislation include the National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Tax Reform, Arizona Eagle Forum, American Conservative Defense Alliance, Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Policy Center, Citizen Outreach Project, Downsize DC, Liberty Coalition, and the U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation.
The Make It Safe Coalition, which includes American Federation of Government Employees, Government Accountability Project, National Employment Lawyers Association, National Whistleblower Center, Project On Government Oversight, Public Citizen, and Union of Concerned Scientists, is leading advocacy efforts on behalf of a trans-partisan, trans-ideological coalition of 231 national, state and local public interest organizations supporting this reform.
The Government Accountability Project is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP's mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.