House Democratic leaders have introduced HR-8363, which would strengthen several government accountability laws including in the areas of whistleblower protections and the Hatch Act, some of which had been passed earlier by the House but that have been sidelined in the Senate.
Provisions for whistleblowers include further steps to protect anonymity, clarifying the right to provide information directly to Congress, creating a private right of action for whistleblowers who are publicly outed by government officials, and limiting the conditions under which a government official or employee may disclose a whistleblower’s identity or other whistleblower information.
It also would strengthen the Office of Special Counsel’s ability to investigate violations of the Hatch Act, clarify that employees of the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President can be investigated and disciplined for Hatch Act violations, authorize the OSC to issue fines for Hatch Act violations committed by senior political appointees, and increase the maximum fine for Hatch Act violations by senior political appointees to $50,000.
The measure also would permit only the President or the head of an agency to remove or place on administrative leave any Inspector General only for cause and requires that the reasons be justified to Congress in advance; and make a series of changes with respect to the use of acting officials in executive agencies, including limiting the tenure of acting heads of agencies to 120 days.
Also introduced was S-4735, a bipartisan bill by the chair and ranking Democrat on the Senate subcommittee on federal spending oversight to require action on issues raised in the annual GAO report on duplication, fragmentation and overlap in federal programs.