House Passes Cummings Bill to Extend Protections for Whistleblowers
Washington, D.C.—Today, the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to extend a pilot program under the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act for three additional years.
H.R. 4197, The All Circuit Review Extension Act, was cosponsored by Rep. Darrell E. Issa, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. Blake Farenthold, Chairman of the Federal Workforce Subcommittee, Rep. Gerry Connolly, Ranking Member of the Government Operations Subcommittee, and long-time whistleblower advocate Rep. Chris Van Hollen.
“This bipartisan bill will protect an important due process right for whistleblowers and foster an environment where employees feel safe coming forward with information,” Cummings said on the House floor today. “This includes employees like the brave doctors, nurses, and administrative staff who have come forward to expose mismanagement in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Federal whistleblowers are critical to exposing waste, fraud, and abuse in the government.”
“Whistleblowers offer essential assistance to congressional oversight efforts to investigate waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government," Issa said. "Unfortunately, however, some would-be whistleblowers have been dissuaded from bringing allegations to light due to previous loopholes in existing law and misinterpretations of Congressional intent by the Federal Circuit. It is important that Congress has a sufficient judicial record to determine where whistleblower appeals would be best heard, and I support extending the pilot by three years to ensure we get that evidence. I want to thank Mr. Cummings for all his work on this and other good governance bills.”
“The extension of the pilot program enacted in the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act is important to uphold the current protections provided to whistleblowers,” Farenthold said. “Whistleblowers are vitally important to assisting in congressional oversight and everyday jeopardize their careers to help expose fraud and abuse in the federal government. As government watchdogs we need to ensure that whistleblowers are provided with every protection from possible retaliation.”
“The pilot program authorizing whistleblowers to file appeals with any U.S. Court of Appeals with jurisdiction has proven to be one of the act’s most vital, and potentially far-reaching, provisions,” Connolly said. “Prior to this pilot program, federal whistleblowers were at the mercy of the Federal Circuit, which had ruled against whistleblowers in an astonishing 226 out of 229 cases since 1994. As the recent disclosures at the Veterans Health Administration demonstrate, our Nation cannot afford to return to an era where federal whistleblowers have no confidence that they will receive a fair day in court should they be subject to retaliation for shedding light on waste, fraud, and abuse.”
“It is imperative that we extend this alternative judicial review to ensure that whistleblowers have the opportunity to have their cases reviewed by impartial courts,” Van Hollen said. “It will also provide the Government Accountability Office more time to assess the law's effectiveness to assist Congress in deciding in the future whether this provision should be made permanent.”
The bill would allow federal whistleblowers to appeal cases to any U.S. Court of Appeals with jurisdiction. Without this extension, whistleblowers would be limited to filing appeals only with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has become increasingly restrictive of whistleblower rights in its decisions over the years.
The bill is widely supported by a coalition of more than 50 non-governmental organizations dedicated to protecting whistleblowers in the public and private sector.
Click here to see video of Ranking Member Cummings’ remarks, as prepared for delivery on the House floor today.