During last week's Congressional Transparency Caucus, I questioned Representative Darrell Issa (R-Ca), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, about the prospects of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) being passed this year. The Chairman made three important announcements in responding:
- He is committed to moving legislation forward by the end of this year
- He announced that such legislation should include rights for national security employees that are "identical or compatible" with the agreement that came out of the Senate Intelligence Committee and is included in the Senate bill, S. 743. This is important because it creates a responsible channel for Intelligence Community employees to work within the system, while breaking ground for a beachhead of more modest national security reforms.
- He will exercise leadership within his own party to see that the WPEA is enacted
The full transcript of the question and answer appear below, after the video:
Question: Can you discuss the role of whistleblowers ... (inaudible) ... given the lack of rights that federal employees have at the moment, I know that the Senate Introduced the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act earlier this Congress, and I'm wondering what the prospects are of your committee moving forward a companion bill?
Issa: I am going to be completely transparent here. We have had, under both republican and democratic leadership, we have had a problem getting a whistleblower act that included the classified community. It doesn't matter who's the chair, somehow the select intelligence committees in the House have not been able to find the same solution that, what we call SSCI -- the senate intelligence committee -- found. Our intention is to move something that is either identical or compatible with the SSCI solution. And it is my intention to move that, with or without the support of the select intelligence committee in the House. So that's a tough one for us because I've given them time, we've worked with them, we've done everything we can, but we will move it. We will move it ... my intention is to move it before the end of the year. And if it isn't moved for any reason, to have an in-my-own-party public display of it has ... we have to have whistleblower[s] and whistleblower cannot somehow exempt the stuff that is least transparent. So getting that right is important, it is something that I was deeply disappointed we almost but didn't quite get through in the last congress. We will get it through in this congress.
During this period of heighted attention on the national debt, and given the degree to which the Government Reform Committee depends on federal whistleblowers to report waste, fraud and abuse (demonstrated recently through ATF's botched Fast & Furious program), Chairman Issa has wisely prioritized passage of the WPEA with coverage for national security employees. We applaud him for that.
Support for the Chairman could not be stronger, made clear at this year's Washington Whistleblower Assembly when leaders from conservative taxpayer groups including National Taxpayers Union, Liberty Coalition and Taxpayers Protection Alliance participated in the panel "Being Right on Whistleblowing - A Conservative Analysis."
Last year, this key legislation passed the Senate, then passed the House after being changed, then was killed by an anonymous 'secret hold' on the last day of the Congressional session. Click here for more information.