What: All Issues : Human Rights & Civil Liberties : Freedom of Scientific Inquiry : H.R. 985 Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act/Stupak of Michigan amendment to include government-funded scientists among the federal employees granted whistleblower protections for exposing wrongdoing
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H.R. 985 Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act/Stupak of Michigan amendment to include government-funded scientists among the federal employees granted whistleblower protections for exposing wrongdoing
house Roll Call 151     Mar 14, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Progressive

This vote was on an amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) that would extend whistleblower protections to those involved with the publication of federally funded scientific research.

The underlying bill aims to make it easier for federal employees to expose wrongdoing, corruption and fraud without repercussions for their own jobs. The bill would grant most federal employees the right to have retaliation claims heard in federal court.

Stupak asserted at a news conference announcing his amendment that many cases have been documented of government officials suppressing the publication of federally funded research and prohibiting scientists from attending conferences.

"Publication in peer-reviewed journals and participation at conferences is a key part of the scientific process, and when senior agency officials attempt to prevent these activities, it represents an attack on the integrity of government-funded research," Stupak said. He specifically cited the case of FDA whistleblower David Graham who was prohibited by his superiors from publishing the early warnings that the drug Vioxx was causing heart attacks and deaths. The drug was eventually taken off the market after 28,000 people who took the drug had heart attacks between 1999 and 2003, according to the FDA.

FDA scientist and whistleblower David Graham estimated that Vioxx may have caused heart attacks in as many as 140,000 Americans, leading to as many as 55,000 deaths in the United States.

Stupak's efforts were lauded by the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Federal scientists working to protect our health and safety must have the right to publish the results of their research," the organization said in a statement.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) rose to oppose Stupak's amendment on the grounds that it would allow federal researchers and scientists "to publicize the results of their federally funded research without any input from the agency paying their salaries and employing them." He added that it was "inappropriate to shoehorn the debate about public policy influencing science into a bill about protecting whistleblowers." Davis echoed Republican concerns that the amendment would turn science and public policy into a "personnel issue to be litigated in the courts."

The House voted 252-173 to pass Stupak's amendment. All of the opposition came from within Republican ranks. Twenty-three Republicans joined all 229 Democrats present in passing the measure. Thus, a bill to expand federal whistleblower protections moved forward with a provision to include scientists conducting federally funded research.

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