Thursday morning federal headlines – Dec. 8, 2011

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Amy Morris discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Federal inspectors general voiced support for a bill to extend whistleblower protections to contractor employees. At a Senate subcommittee hearing, IG staff members from defense and civilian agencies say the protections are needed to help stop waste, fraud and abuse. Marguerite Garrison is a Deputy IG at the Defense Department. She says her office has received 68 complaints of reprisals against contractor whistleblowers. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has approved a similar bill. It would launch a two-year pilot project for expanding defense contractor whistleblower protections to all federal contractors. (Federal News Radio)
  • Your $230 per month transit benefit gets cut in starting Jan. 1 unless Congress acts. The National Treasury Employees Union urges Congress to pass the Commuter Benefits Equity Act. Mass transit subsidies rose one year ago as part of a bill extending unemployment benefits. But only for one year. Now, federal workers’ monthly transit benefit is set to fall to $120 a month. Bills to extend the higher subsidy have been introduced in the House and Senate, but haven’t cleared committee. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Senate will probably vote down President Obama’s nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Richard Cordray has been working at the new agency in a staff position. The 47 Republican senators are nearly unanimous in their opposition, so Cordray is unlikely to get 60 votes. Balloting takes place today. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) says his party’s opposition is not to Cordray personally. Republicans think the Bureau should not be managed by a single director. They are pushing for a bipartisan set of commissioners, similar to the FCC. (Federal News Radio)
  • A veterans business group is suing the VA. The Washington Business Journal reports that the Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Network is suing Veterans Affairs and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. The group says the agency failed to comply with the law that requires veteran-owned small businesses to receive priority in all contract awards. The lawsuit comes just a week after two House subcommittees held a hearing on the topic, questioning VA officials about the decision to ignore the GAO recommendations. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Postal Service and its two largest unions will extend their labor contract negotiations yet again. The parties failed to reach a deal by their Dec. 7 deadline. They’ll now have until midnight Dec. 16. The contracts with the National Association of Letter Carriers, and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union expired in late November. The Postal Service wants the power to layoff workers and make other workforce decisions it needs to remain solvent. If negotiations fail, a process begins that could result in a third party determining contract terms and work rules for a combined 240,000 employees. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Combined Federal Campaign wants to add retirees and contractors to its receding donor base. Federal Times reports, CFC’s donors have dropped by 400,000 in the last decade. The idea was pitched during a CFC-50 Commission meeting. The group is creating recommendations to buoy the 50-year-old charity drive. Right now, CFC campaigns are not allowed to solicit contractors or civilian and military retirees. Those groups can’t make recurring pledges online either. But that could change. Some of the other recommendations include merging some regional campaigns and creating a national CFC website with a single standard online giving system. The campaign experienced its first drop in donations in almost a decade last year, going from $282 million in 2009 to $281million in 2010. The commission’s final recommendations are due to the Office of Personnel Management by March 31. (Federal News Radio)
  • The House has passed a bill that gives Congress greater power to approve or reject major federal regulations. GOP leaders call many of the regulations, which cover everything from health care to dangerous children’s toys, “major job killers.” The bill now heads to the Senate. It’s unlikely to pass the Democratic majority. If approved, the legislation would shift power from agency regulators to Congress to make decisions on proposals with a potential economic impact of more than $100 million. Senior advisors have recommended President Obama veto the bill if it makes it to his desk. (Federal News Radio)