The Coalition played a crucial role in raising awareness of some of the difficulties facing USDA employees who filed complaints.
I'm proud to stand with you and demand USDA officials ensure there is a process for employees to have their discrimination claims heard in a fair and timely manner.
And our work hasn't gone unnoticed. But we haven't finished our work.
I'm going to continue my oversight of USDA until I am satisfied they have a system in place to properly handle discrimination and retaliation claims.
The dean of Whistleblowers, Ernie Fitzgerald once said that the only crime whistleblowers commit is that they "commit truth." For it, they're as welcome as a skunk at a picnic. Today's event highlights the uphill struggle that whistleblowers overcome. I commend each and every whistleblower that, like Ernie, fights to make sure that the truth is heard.
It's a tremendous honor to stand before such a diverse coalition of individual whistleblowers, friends, and other supporters.
Today's event provides a forum to discuss a number of important bills pending before Congress that will strengthen and expand existing whistleblower protection laws. I am proud to report that one important bill, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which I have cosponsored with Senator Akaka, recently passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
This legislation makes a number of important changes to the Whistleblower Protection Act for Federal employees. It overturns a number of court decisions and rulings of the Merit Systems Protection Board that have limited whistleblower rights. It clarifies court jurisdiction and appeals of whistleblower cases.
Most importantly, it provides federal whistleblower protection laws to members of the Intelligence Community for the first time. I strongly support this provision. It provides protections without harming national security. Coupled with a new process to challenge suspensions of security clearances, it provides real protections for Intelligence Community employees.
This important bill is now pending in the House. I know that Congressman Issa is a supporter of this legislation and that the bill has been referred to his Committee, along with some others. I'd encourage all of you to work constructively with the House to make sure that this legislation continues to progress.
It would be a great victory for all whistleblowers to have this bill signed into law. Protections for federal employees need to be strengthened, and this bill does that.
I've said it for many years--I'd like to see the President of the United States have a Rose Garden ceremony honoring whistleblowers. This would send a message from the very top of the government to the bottom about the importance and value of whistleblowers. They deserve it, and we all ought to be grateful for their efforts. It would be the perfect event for the President to sign a bill like the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.
But, federal employee whistleblowers are only one story in a fight on many fronts. Other legislation provides significant protections for private sector employees working in critical sectors.
I was an original sponsor of the False Claims Act Amendments Act of 1986, the Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower protections, and the new whistleblower protections at the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Corporation. These groundbreaking laws represent a commitment on the federal level that recognizes the good that whistleblowers bring when they are free to speak. They provide an opportunity to ensure that the truth comes out in our financial sector.
However, these important laws are only as strong as the resolve of the whistleblowers to stand up, speak out, and fight to bring the forward the truth. Every day whistleblowers like you are doing your part. By attending events like this and coming forward to tell your stories, you help to put a face and a name on whistleblower issues. I thank you for coming here today to tell these stories in a public setting.In closing, I'd like to again thank you all for putting together this forum. It represents the hard work and patriotic spirit of individuals. As long as I'm around in Congress, I'll keep fighting for whistleblowers right beside you. Thank you.