Each year on July 30th, we take time to celebrate whistleblowers and the important role they play in keeping our government transparent and accountable.
But the task of supporting whistleblowers doesn’t start and stop on July 30th.
It’s a year round job.
And here in the Congress, it’s something we’ve been working at for decades.
When I first came to Washington in the 1970’s, most of the whistleblower laws we take for granted today didn’t exist at all.
I like to tell people, anybody who dared to blow the whistle back then was about as welcome as a skunk at a picnic.
People in the government would often retaliate by trying to run the whistleblower off and make them out to be the problem.
I still hear about that kind of thing today in far too many cases.
But today we have better whistleblower protections in place than we did years ago, and whistleblowers have important advocates in their corner to support them.
The nation owes a special thanks for many of the key whistleblower protections we have today to my former colleague and good friend, Senator Carl Levin, who died yesterday at the age of 87.
Carl was the original sponsor of the Whistleblower Protection Act back in 1989 and a cosponsor of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act in 2012.
I was proud to have worked with Carl on those foundational pieces of whistleblower legislation.
I know that if Carl were still in the Senate today, he’d be continuing to lead on whistleblower issues.
Carl understood that whistleblower protections are not just important to members of Congress and a small network of interest groups in Washington, D.C.
They’re important for the entire nation because whistleblowers play a critical role in our government. They call attention to problems of waste, fraud, abuse and inefficiency.
They help those of us in Congress to identify problems in the government so we can fix them through oversight and through legislation if necessary.
And so whistleblowers help keep government more transparent and accountable to the people, and they help us find ways of saving taxpayer dollars.
As much as Carl accomplished during his Senate career, and as much as we’ve accomplished together over the years, there’s still more to be done to ensure that whistleblowers remain protected.
One important resource for whistleblowers is the Merit Systems Protection Board, where whistleblowers can go if they face retaliation for blowing the whistle.
The board has been without a quorum for more than two years.
And it’s developed a significant backlog of cases.
I’m not sure what’s keeping President Biden from sending us nominations for the Board.
I certainly believe he needs to without delay.
There’s also still work to do to make whistleblower protections stronger and more robust.
I’m working on several pieces of whistleblower legislation at the moment.
One of my bills will strengthen incentives and protections for whistleblowers who report potential money laundering, and I also have legislation to further strengthen the False Claims Act and Program Fraud Civil Remedies Act by giving agencies more resources to directly take on people who defraud the government.
In addition, I’m working on legislation that will establish stronger whistleblower protections for our FBI employees.
Wherever there are still gaps in our existing laws, I’m working to fill them.
This year on Whistleblower Appreciation Day, the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus welcomes two new members, Senators Collins and Hassan.
As chair of the caucus, I’m pleased to welcome my colleagues.
I look forward to working with them and our caucus co-chair, Senator Wyden, as we continue our joint efforts to make sure the whistleblower laws and protections we have in place next year and the year after are even stronger than the ones we have in place today.