This was a vote on a motion to recommit that would have eliminated new protocols requiring the Labor Department to investigate all complaints by oil company employees who claim they have been discriminated against for reporting safety concerns [these employees are known as “whistleblowers]. A motion to recommit with instructions is the minority's opportunity to torpedo or significantly change a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. If successful, the motion sends the legislation back to committee with instructions to amend the legislation as specified. The motion to recommit was offered to legislation prohibiting employers involved in offshore oil drilling from discriminating against who report suspected safety violations to federal or state officials.
The motion to recommit would have replaced the whistleblower protection bill’s new protocols for filing complaints with a less stringent procedure allowing the Labor Secretary to conduct an investigation of the complaint if the secretary deems such an investigation “appropriate.” In addition, the underlying bill allowed employees to file a complaint (accusing their employers of discrimination) with the Labor Department within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory action. The Republican motion to recommit would have required such complaints to be made within 30 days.
Rep. John Kline (R-MN) argued the motion to recommit merely extended legally established whistleblower protections to oil workers, and would create less legal uncertainty than creating a new regulatory framework specifically for employees of oil companies: “The Democrats' bill creates confusion. Our approach gives certainty. The Democrats' bill creates legal conflict. Our approach has established case law. The Democrats' bill will take time to implement and understand. Our approach will provide immediate protections in a manner Federal authorities and workers already know and understand.”
Rep. George Miller (D-CA) urged opposition to the motion to recommit: “I would strongly urge you to reject the Republican motion to recommit. What we have before us today in the legislation that I am offering [the underlying whistleblower protection bill]…is an effort to provide the level of protection that these offshore oil workers on the rigs on the Outer Continental Shelf of the United States of America are entitled to. What the Republicans are suggesting is that a law that was written in 1970 is good enough for these workers. Let's understand the environment in which these workers are working. They're working on the most expensive oil rigs in the history of the world. They're making the most complex drills in the history of the world. They're using the most complex technology in the history of the world, and they're doing it in constant motion on top of the seas as they drill for these resources.”
The House rejected this motion to recommit by a vote of 171-234. All 161 Republicans present and 10 Democrats voted “yea.” 234 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected a motion to recommit on a whistleblower protection bill that would have eliminated new protocols requiring the Labor Department to investigate all complaints by oil company employees who claim they have been discriminated against for reporting safety concerns. If it had passed, the motion to recommit would have replaced those protocols with a less stringent procedure allowing the Labor Secretary to conduct an investigation of the complaint if the secretary deems such an investigation “appropriate.”