WATERLOO — U.S. Rep. Rod Blum’s bill to better protect whistleblowers got past another legislative hurdle with unanimous support last week when it passed the U.S. House by voice vote.
The Thoroughly Investigating Retaliation Against Whistleblowers Act, which reauthorizes and expands the role of the Office of Special Counsel that conducts investigations throughout the agencies of the executive branch passed, passed on Tuesday. The agency also protects federal employees who raise concerns about wrongdoing within their agencies, or whistleblowers.
“It’s exciting,” Blum said of the bill moving forward. “We’re looking forward to Sen. Johnson shepherding it through the Senate. Hopefully, the president can sign it before he leaves office.”
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has a related bill that has been introduced in the Senate.
Blum, R-1st District, has been working on getting the bill passed — it also unanimously passed the Oversight Committee Blum sits on — since he introduced it in February.
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“OSC has an immensely important role to play in protecting whistleblowers helping to root out waste, fraud and abuse. I believe this bill will be good for the agency and good for the whistleblowers they are charged with protecting,” Blum said on the House floor ahead of the vote to urge his colleagues to support the legislation.
The strengthening provisions in the reauthorization legislation improve processes for the Office of Special Counsel, including by streamlining the ability of the office to gather evidence from agencies, seeking to reduce duplicate complaints and putting in place a three-year statute of limitations.
Blum stressed the importance of the bill by pointing to the workplace retaliation that took place in the Veterans Affairs system when employees raised concerns.
While Blum said he was “grateful” the legislation garnered bipartisan support, he also said legislation that protects people who expose problems in the government, should be widely supported.
Aside from the unanimous support in the House, the bill’s passage was praised by the Office of Special Counsel. Its chief Carolyn Lerner released a statement praising Blum and his cosponsors for their efforts to “strengthen OSC’s ability to protect federal whistleblowers.” She said authorization will give the agency “additional tools to protect federal employees and save taxpayer dollars.”
Blum noted the last authorization for the OSC expired in 2007, so he called his bill “long overdue.” His bill, H.R. 4639, would authorize the work of the Office of Special Counsel for the next five years.