The House unanimously cleared legislation on Thursday to ensure protections for federal employees who disclose government waste, fraud and abuse.
Passed 420-0, the measure would train federal workers so they understand their protections, as well as enhance penalties for supervisors who retaliate against whistleblowers.
The bill is named after Chris Kirkpatrick, a psychologist was fired from a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center after raising concerns about patients’ medications. He committed suicide on the day he was dismissed.
The bill also orders the VA to create a plan for preventing unauthorized access to employee medical records and conduct outreach to employees about mental-health services.
The Senate passed the legislation, authored by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), in May. It now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature.
“Future whistleblowers who take a risk to expose wrongdoing and waste in the federal government deserve the respect and support of our nation. I urge the president to quickly sign these important reforms into law,” Johnson said in a statement.
Before final passage, House Democrats offered a procedural motion to amend the bill by extending protections to federal workers who reveal wrongdoing by an agency head or political appointee violating rules or regulations regarding travel.
Democrats offered the motion in light of Tom Price’s resignation as secretary of Health and Human Services in September after Politico revealed his extensive use of private jets, instead of commercial alternatives, at taxpayers’ expense. Politico estimated Price’s travel costs at possibly more than $1 million.
“The resources invested to agencies to fulfill their missions of serving Americans should not be abused or frivolously flaunted for personal gain or convenience,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), who offered the motion.
Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) did not disagree with the substance of the proposal offered by Democrats, but urged swift passage of the underlying whistleblower legislation so Trump could sign it into law as soon as possible.
“Let’s not let one good bill get in the way of another,” Blum said.
The motion failed along party lines, as is typical in the House when it comes to procedural votes.
The House also passed two noncontroversial bills by voice vote on Wednesday to protect and encourage whistleblowers.
One measure, authored by Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), would allow federal agencies to pay up to $20,000 in cash rewards to workers who report waste. The other, sponsored by Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.), would allow whistleblowers outside the intelligence community to disclose classified information to supervisors in their chain of command.