House votes 331-94 to bolster whistleblower protections

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The United States took a giant step toward greater government openness last week when the House voted by an overwhelming margin for the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007 (H.R. 985). The bill would restore protections for government workers who face firing or disciplinary action for stepping forward to expose malfeasance. In a press release hailing the House actionn Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project said:

“If the Senate follows suit, this reform will be the strongest whistleblower law ever passed by Congress, or any other nation.”

The bill now moves to the Senate Judiciary Commttee.  I don’t know if or when action is scheduled. Supporters hope the size and bipartisan nature of the House vote will create momentum for Senate action and deflect the possibility of a presidential veto. The Congressional Research Service offers an authoritative summary of the bill’s provisions.

The Washington Post reported that the whistleblower legislation was one of three similar bills all dealing with government openness; the other two “would streamline access to records in presidential libraries” and “strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),” the Post said.

All are important. All should be passed. But to my mind the whistleblower legislation is the linchpin. No amount of investigation can substitute for people, in the bowels of the bureaucracy and in the know, to willingly step foward and take the risk of ostracized, marginalized or fired for exposing what their bosses would wrongfully conceal.

Let your Senator know that Americans demand such openness and push for passage by a margin as wide as that in the House. This way if the White House threatens a veto, we can say: “Bring it on!”