Countdown: Omnibus, whistleblowers, snow day policy

On this week’s Federal News Countdown:
David Olive, Principal, Catalyst Partners
John Palguta, Vice President, Partnership for Public Service

David Olive’s stories
#3 DC subway system to start random bag searches
From Associated Press:

Authorities are going to start randomly inspecting bags entering D.C. subways in a program based on similar efforts in Boston and New York.

Metro Transit Police Department Chief Michael Taborn said Thursday the inspections have been in the works for years, and are not a response to any particular threat. In recent months, authorities say the subway system has faced various threats.


#2 House passes bipartisan tax cut deal, first of Obama administration
From Christian Science Monitor:

Legislation that extends Bush-era tax cuts until 2012, ensures benefits for the unemployed for another 13 months, cuts what workers pay into Social Security by nearly a third for a year, and reins in taxes for business, investors, and heirs to estates – a.k.a. the Obama-Republican tax-cut compromise – cleared its last congressional hurdle Thursday and heads to the president’s desk on Friday.

#1 Senate Dem leader drops nearly $1.3T spending bill
From Associated Press:

After wrestling with — and finally abandoning — a 1,900-page catchall spending bill stuffed with more than $8 billion in home-state projects known as earmarks in Washington and pork in the rest of the country, Senate leaders turned Friday to devising a measure to keep the federal government running into early next year.

Nearly $1.3 trillion in unfinished budget work needed to keep the government running was packed into the spending measure, including $158 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave up on the bill Thursday after several Republicans who had been thinking of voting for it pulled back their support.

John Palguta’s stories
#3 Snow-day telework rules loosen up
From Federal Computer Week:

Just in time for the snow showers expected this week, the Office of Personnel Management announced a new telework policy for federal workers who are unable to commute to work due to severe weather or other emergencies. Under the policy, all federal employees with telework agreements will be eligible to participate in an “unscheduled telework” option when they can’t make it to the office.

Federal agencies will still be able to exercise their authority to provide an excused absence to telework employees on a case-by-case basis (for childcare issues or power outages, for example) when employees are instructed to work on days when federal offices are closed, according to OPM.

#2 Whistleblower protection bill hits sudden stop in Congress
From Washington Post:

After 12 years of working to improve protections for federal employees who blow the whistle on government waste, fraud and abuse, Congress was on the verge of passing legislation to make that happen.

For whistleblowers and their advocates, those 12 years included compromises with opponents and fights with friends, including a late-breaking one this week.

After the Senate approved the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act on Friday, using a unanimous consent procedure, the greater protections seemed in sight. The House was poised to consider the bill, and advocates could almost taste victory.

Then Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) put up a roadblock that could derail the bill.

#1 Senate omnibus bill includes 2-year pay freeze
From Federal News Radio:

The Senate is proposing a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2011 that includes a two-year pay freeze for federal employees.

The proposed pay freeze would begin Jan. 1 and end Dec. 31, 2012.