A group of prominent Democratic legislators has proposed a whistleblower protection bill designed to help uncover fraud and waste in the trillions of dollars worth of coronavirus-relief funds allocated by Congress.
Introduced Monday, the COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act would also protect whistleblowers reporting on “substantial and specific dangers to the public health and safety” in federally supported programs.
“Whistleblowers are truth tellers. They have moral compasses and their conviction saves American taxpayer billions of dollars each year,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), in a statement announcing the filing of the bill.
The bill would expand whistleblower protections to non-federal employees or contractors, giving the Department of Labor the power to investigate retaliation claims.
Whistleblowers could bring their claims before a wide range of bodies, including Congress, as well as all federal and state law enforcement and regulatory bodies.
Under the terms of the bill, if a whistleblower cannot find administrative relief for his or her complaint, or if they suffer retaliation, he or she could file a federal lawsuit seeking compensation and damages through a jury verdict. The bill would also protect whistleblower confidentiality and protect against gag orders.
The bill sets a three-year statute of limitations on whistleblower claims.
Along with Speier, the whistleblower bill’s sponsors in the House include Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Kathleen M. Rice (D-N.Y.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). In the Senate, the bill is sponsored by Sens. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.).
Some of the whistleblower protections are also contained in another, wider-ranging bill introduced by Democrats on Monday, The Coronavirus Oversight and Recovery Ethics Act of 2020 (“CORE Act”).
“The CORE Act would empower independent oversight, protect whistleblowers, and stop government-sanctioned corruption and profiteering to ensure the health and safety of Americans come first,” said Warren in a statement. Warren’s bill would also empower and protect the position of the Inspector General, which has come under fire by President Donald Trump.
The CORE Act was sponsored by Warren and 25 Democratic members of Congress.