On Wednesday, behind closed doors on Capitol Hill, House and Senate leaders hammered out a deal to pass the economic stimulus bill. Both the original House and Senate versions of this bill included protections for employee whistleblowers. By Wednesday evening, news sources such as Talking Points Memo were reporting that the whistleblower provisions in the bill had been cut.
Well, we got our hands on the final text of the bill, and it turns out that whistleblower protections for state, local, and government contractor employees have made the final bill! Unfortunately, the proposed protections for federal employees have been eliminated completely.
This is a partial victory, but a victory nonetheless. Now we must continue to fight for the rights of federal employees. Stephen and Michael Kohn, the President and General Counsel of the National Whistleblowers Center, released the following press statement this morning:
"Private contractors and state and local government employees are covered. They have a right to file a claim and present their case to an independent court and jury. It is now up to Congress to finish the job, and ensure that federal employees have the same rights. It makes no sense to protect some workers who have responsiblity over the stimulus, but to deny protections to the federal regulators who will have the primary duty to police the spending and ensure that there is no political favoritism in the allocation of billions of dollars in taxpayer monies," said Stephen Kohn, the President of the National Whistleblower Center.
"Congress has started to listen," said Michael Kohn, General Counsel of the National Whistleblower Center and attorney for Bunny Greenhouse. "We need to redouble our efforts and obtain universal whistleblower protection coverage for all American workers, including federal government employees," Michael Kohn added. Earlier this week Greenhouse had asked that both the McCakill Amendment and the Platts-Van Hollen Amemdnets be enacted into law. The Senate approved the McCaskill amendents, but cut out the protections for federal employees.
"Senator Clare McCaskill did an incredible job getting these changes into the stimulus. It was a tough and fast paced environment and she was able to ensure strong oversight provisions for some of the workers involved in spending taxpayer monies. She worked in an open an bi-partisan manner and obtained the support from other key Senators, including Independent Senator Liberman and Republican Senator Collins. We hope that the reforms included in the stimulus package will be made permament, will apply to the use of all taxpayer monies and will cover federal workers."