Whistleblower Legislative History Fact Sheet

The chronology below highlights the recent legislative history of federal whistleblower protections reform.  To summarize, it has the benefit of four hearings, eight markups where authorizing committees with the relevant expertise approved it, and four House or Senate votes.  Its final enactment has been blocked once by an unrelated filibuster and three times by secret holds.  

October 2000:  Whistleblower Protection Act legislation introduced in Senate.

July 2001: Whistleblower Protection Act legislation introduced in House

August 2001: Senate conducts first hearings.

September 2001:  September 11th attacks and anthrax scares halt legislative progress

August 2002: House Government Reform Committee marks up a version of legislation, as part of legislation to create a Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The provision fails by six votes on the House floor after being merged with a controversial measure to provide collective bargaining rights for DHS employees.

October 2002: Senate Governmental Affairs Committee approves the bill in markup as part of the DHS legislation, but a filibuster over other issues prevents the committee-approved version of the DHS bill from being voted on, and the WPA is not in the substitute later enacted.

November 2003: Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) conducts second set of hearings.

July 2004: Senate HSGAC marks up the legislation again.

September 2004: House Government Reform Committee marks up legislation.

September/October 2004: A secret legislative hold blocks a Senate vote of committee-approved bill.

May 2005 – Senate HSGAC Committee marks up the bill again, but floor votes are blocked by secret holds until adjournment.  Senate leadership does not schedule floor time to overcome secret holds.

September 2005: House Government Reform committee marks up the legislation again.

June 2006 – Senate approves the WPA legislation as part of the FY2007 Defense Authorization bill.  

October 2006 – Agreement reached among conferees and by relevant committee chairmen, but whistleblower language disappears from text of final bill after being sent for publication. Congressional sources traced the action back to orders from House leadership at the request of the Justice Department and the White House.

February 2007 – House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds hearings on whether to add protection for national security whistleblowers in the legislation.

March 2007 – House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds hearings and marks up legislation. 

March 2007 – House passed the legislation, H.R. 985, 331-94, despite a veto threat issued by the Bush administration.

November 2007 – Senate HSGAC committee again marks up the legislation, S. 274.

December 2007 – Senate again passes the legislation, S. 274, by unanimous consent.

September 2008 – Informal agreement reached for a compromise between H.R. 985 and S. 274, and another bill is offered, but secret holds by two offices block votes in the Senate again. Advocates subsequently learned that the two Senators did not have subject matter expertise or prior involvement with the legislation, but rather placed heir holds as a courtesy to requests by the Department of Justice and CIA, respectively.

January 2009 – The same WPA legislation approved by the House in 2007 again is approved as an amendment to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act without dissent.  The whistleblower amendment is the only bipartisan amendment considered and approved on the House floor during debate of the underlying stimulus legislation, H.R. 1. 

Revised February 3, 2009