Government workers who speak out against crime and corruption at work may soon have more protection from retribution as the Senate on Monday joined the House in passing the first expansion of whistleblower rights that could become law since 1989.
The bill, sponsored by Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), was approved on a voice vote late Monday. The House in March approved a bill to strengthen whistle-blower protections for federal employees.
For six years, efforts to get whistle-blower legislation through Congress have been opposed by the Justice Department, blocked by senators and dropped from legislative packages at the last moment.
If passed, the law will restore the original protections of the Whistleblower Protection Act that many feel have been gutted over the past decade-and-a-half. (To read a summary of the legislation's intended effects, click here.)
The Senate and House versions of the bill still need to be reconciled and should face a veto by President Bush, who disagrees with a provision that would allow judicial review of executive decisions to revoke security clearances.
Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, said, "The Senate has given a Christmas present to the taxpayers. This was possible because of marathon commitment to public service by key Senate offices. Congress should act promptly to convene a conference committee and get this reform in the law books, so it can start making a difference."
Devine believes the legislation has a veto-proof majority and should become law despite Bush Administration veto warnings.