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Kyl or Sessions Killed Whistleblower Protection Law, Says Journalist

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A crowdsourcing initiative spurred by the Government Accountability Project and NPR’s On the Media has narrowed to two the list of senators suspected of having killed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2010 in the last Congressional session by putting a secret “emergency hold” on it.

The bill clarified existing protections for government employees who report mismanagement, wrongdoing, or waste. Both the House and the Senate had passed it unanimously, but then certain language was taken out (actually weakening the bill). Then, reportedly at the request of the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives—where secret holds aren’t possible—either Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) or Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) killed the Act, anonymously.

All other senators have been eliminated from the reporters’ suspicion. Many have responded to constituents’ demands (that’s the crowdsourcing element) that they provide a statement denying that they were the one. Kyl and Sessions are among the senators who have not done so. Both have used secret holds in the past. Kyl is not running for re-election.

Why kill an act that was so popular among both lawmakers and the public? Pressed to speculate, On the Media‘s Brooke Gladstone suggested this morning on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show that it might have something to do with government projects in certain House lawmakers’ districts, but acknowledged that that was purely a guess.

Although the bill was killed, Gladstone suggested that even if the investigation never manages to finger one specific senator, it may have had an effect: Assuming the bill is re-introduced in the current session (or a future one), public displeasure at what happened may discourage the use of a secret hold on this issue again.

Image: SEC Whistleblower Program

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is a Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he visits every park in New York City. And by night he's a part-time working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.
  • How can the case NPR’s program makes be accurate? The bill that passed each house of congress had its detractors but there are no more “secret holds.”

    The National Whistleblowers Center called the legislation a “bad deal” because under it [S 372], “most federal employees who are retaliated against for blowing the whistle will continue to lose their cases.” According to the NWC, “Many of its positive features are thwarted by carefully drafted “fine print” that will negate, in practice, the ability of employees who report waste, fraud and abuse to obtain protection.”

    WNYC reported that the NPR program On The Media said, “This bill had already been passed by the House and the Senate, but in the final vote on the reconciled bill, it died and no one had to take responsibility.” But where is the “anonymous hold?”

    On January 27, 2011, as ProPublica reported, “the Senate ended the ‘secret holds’ that lawmakers used to anonymously hold up bills and nominees without having to explain their objections.” That does not prevent Senators from putting a hold on legislation. “But senators who do so will have their name published in the Congressional Record.” The vote was 92 to 4.

    Three founding members of the senate’s Tea Party Caucus, Jim Demint, Mike Lee and Rand Paul, opposed ending secret holds. They said that they didn’t want to change the Senate’s rules.


  • Here is an update to Jon’s article. The anonymous hold that OTM’s been investigating was placed in December, at the end of the last Congressional session. So rules that were passed on 1/27/11 didn’t prevent that particular anonymous hold.

    There appear to be loopholes in the new rules as well. Names don’t get published until after 48 hours of a hold, which is time enough to get a bill pulled back for reconsideration.


  • Tommy, thanks for the update!

  • Julie Anderson

    I don’t get why they have to kill the Whistle Blower Protection Law. People who testify should be given the due protection of the law because their lives are at stake. I hope there’s still a chance to revive the law that protects eye witnesses or whistle blowers for that matter.

  • It was reintroduced in the Senate in April. No action yet, I guess.