Oversight Committee Approves Legislation Strengthening Whistleblower Protections and Transparency of Political Appointees
Washington, D.C. (June 29, 2021)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement after the Committee voted favorably to approve her bills, the Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act and the Periodically Listing Updates to Management (PLUM) Act, along with several other important reforms, many with bipartisan support:
“Federal whistleblowers provide critical information on government corruption and wrongdoing, including by providing information to Congress. Their disclosures safeguard taxpayer dollars, improve federal programs, and save lives. The Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act would make long overdue reforms to ensure that whistleblowers are protected from retaliation and to provide equitable remedies when whistleblowers do face retaliation.
“The PLUM Act would make our government more transparent for the American people by providing timely information about senior government officials who are making decisions that impact the lives of millions. This bill also includes legislation to require reports that summarize the demographics of political appointees, which would further enhance transparency and ensure that our senior leaders are diverse and representative of America.”
Improving Protections for Whistleblowers
Among other reforms, the Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act of 2021 would:
- Expand whistleblower protections by:
- Making clear that no federal government employee may interfere with or retaliate against a federal employee sharing information with Congress;
- Prohibiting agencies from launching retaliatory investigations against employees who blow the whistle; and
- Prohibiting retaliation against a federal employee for disclosing to a supervisor any violations of law, gross mismanagement or waste, abuse of authority, or substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
- Ensure due process and equitable relief for whistleblowers by:
- Providing timely consideration and appeals for employees who request a delay in adverse personnel actions;
- Granting whistleblowers access to a jury trial in federal district court if the Merit Systems Protections Board does not issue a decision in 180 days (or 240 days for complex cases); and
- Clarifying that whistleblowers who prevail are entitled to recover attorney fees and be granted necessary relief to make them whole, such as through training, restoration of seniority, or a promotion consistent with the employee’s record.
- Provide protections for more federal employees by extending Title 5 protections to noncareer Senior Executive Service employees, Public Health Service officers or applicants, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s commissioned officer corps.
The Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act is co-sponsored by a bipartisan coalition of 29 Members of Congress, including all Democratic members of the Committee on Oversight and Reform. Republican Committee Member, Representative Nancy Mace called the bill a “common sense reform” that “gives support to those in government who speak up when they see wrongdoing.”
Today’s legislation is also supported by the Government Accountability Project, Project On Government Oversight, Taxpayer Protection Alliance, Whistleblowers of America, R Street Institute, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Public Citizen, the National Taxpayers Union, and others. In its support letter for the bill, the National Taxpayers Union said that the bill “includes several best-practice improvements to legal whistleblower protections.”
Increasing the Transparency of Political Appointees
Chairwoman Maloney’s Periodically Listing Updates to Management Act (PLUM Act) would provide the public with visibility into who is serving in senior leadership positions in the executive branch. The bill would require the Office of Personnel Management to establish and maintain a current, publicly available directory of senior government leaders online.
- Currently, a comprehensive list of positions appointed by the president is made available only once every four years in a publication referred to as the “Plum Book.” The PLUM Act would modernize the Plum Book and provide timely and transparent information about who is serving in senior leadership positions. The PLUM Act requires that the directory of senior government leaders meets modern data standards, all federal agencies share data on senior officials with OPM, and OPM coordinates with the White House every six months to confirm that information is complete, accurate, reliable, and up to date.
- The PLUM Act would implement recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Administrative Conference of the United States. A bipartisan group of 24 organizations and experts have expressed their support for the PLUM Act.
- Chairwoman Maloney first introduced this bill in 2020 with Rep. Connolly and Rep. Sarbanes. Senator Carper introduced a companion bill in the Senate, S 857. During the 116th Congress the PLUM Act was reported favorably out of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
On June 28, 2021, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez introduced the Political Appointments Inclusion and Diversity Act. This bill was added to the PLUM Act in advance of the markup.
- The Political Appointments Inclusion and Diversity Act would require OPM to coordinate with the White House Office of Presidential Personnel to make a summary of demographic information on political appointees publicly available.
- This bill has earned the support of more than 30 organizations.
- This addition to the PLUM Act would increase visibility for potential job opportunities to encourage a more diverse pool of candidates to consider federal service and see where efforts need to be improved to ensure that policymakers are diverse and representative of everyone in the country.
Other Important Reforms
The Oversight Committee also approved several other bills:
- H.R. 3599, the Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act, a bipartisan bill to strengthen the federal cybersecurity workforce in the face of growing cyber threats;
- H.R. 1224, the Merit System Protection Board Empowerment Act, which would reauthorize and strengthen the MSPB;
- H.R. 3787, the District of Columbia Local Juror Nondiscrimination Act, which would prevent discrimination against D.C. jurors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity; and
- H.R. 1204, the District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer Salary Home Rule Act, which would ensure the D.C. Chief Financial Officer can be adequately compensated.