Policy

Senators Push for Whistleblower Protections for Hill Staff

Congressional whistleblowers are not currently protected against retaliation

From left, Ron Wyden, Charles Grassley and Claire McCaskill introduced a bill for whistleblower protection. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senators who have pushed for whistleblower protections in other areas of government are working to ensure their own staffers are safe from retaliation.  

A bipartisan trio of senators introduced a bill Friday that would protect congressional staff who alert authorities to wrongdoing. The legislative branch has been exempt from such protections, and the congressional office that oversees workplace complaints and safety issues has consistently recommended that it be included.  

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, and Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, all founding members of the Senate's Whistleblower Protection Caucus, introduced a bill to amend the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act to shield staff from punishment for disclosing information that is evidence of illegal activity, mismanagement, abuse of authority, or dangerous activity.

"Congress has worked hard to encourage employees in the bureaucracy to come forward and disclose misconduct or waste at work, and we’ve put in place many protections so that these patriotic employees don’t face retribution for exposing the truth," Grassley said in a statement.

"But Congress is not without its own flaws, and legislative branch employees should enjoy the same protections.  This bill simply applies to Congress the same philosophy that government workers should not be punished for disclosing wrongdoing."

In July 2015, on the same day the Senate declared "National Whistleblower Appreciate Day," Congress' Office of Compliance released its annual report, and recommended for the fifth-straight year that these protections be extended to Congress. Grassley's office noted he has worked to include congressional staffers since 2006, but  some members of the Whistleblower Caucus, including McCaskill, were not aware their own staffers were exempt from the protections when the 2015 report was released.

"I’ll go right back to the office and say, 'Draft that legislation!'" McCaskill said at time.

On Friday, that legislation was unveiled as part of "Sunshine Week," which promotes government transparency. The bill has been referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

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