Tuesday morning federal headlines – Feb. 14, 2012

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

  • President Barack Obama’s budget proposal contains measures that the struggling Postal Service says will help it regain control over its finances. Obama supports returning money that the agency has prepaid for future retirees’ health benefits. He also renewed a call for ending Saturday mail delivery. Under the plan, the Postal Service would be able to work more closely with state and local governments and have more say over postage pricing. Postmaster General Pat Donohoe says in a statement that they are “helpful recommendations.” (USPS)
  • Federal unions say President Barack Obama’s budget proposal is a “hit” on federal workers. The president has renewed a call for feds to pay 1.2 percent more of their salaries to retirement. The American Federation of Government Employees says that’s a “sop to the right wing” who want to see greater cuts to federal benefits. The National Treasury Employees Union says the measure fails to recognize the sacrifice feds are making with a two-year pay freeze. But President Colleen Kelley says she’s glad Obama didn’t call for extending that freeze.
  • There’s a new face visiting Washington today. It’s Xi Jin Ping, the vice president of China. Shee is set to become the top dog in 2013. He’s making the rounds of the White House and Pentagon before visiting an Iowa farm he visited as a mid-level party bureaucrat 25 years ago. The visit comes a day after the White House 2013 budget proposal called for reorganizing federal trade agencies into. A goal of that plan is countering what the U.S. sees as unfair Chinese trade practices and theft of intellectual property. (Federal News Radio)
  • Military pay would increase by 1.7 percent in 2013 under yesterday’s White House budget proposal. But many TRICARE health insurance users would see higher out-of-pocket costs beginning next year. The Defense Department proposal would again raise fees for working-age retirees. And, for the first time, it would impose fees on Medicare-eligible TRICARE beneficiaries. It would also raise prescription co-pays at retail pharmacies. That’s to push TRICARE users to DoD’s less-expensive mail order prescription service. Military healthcare facilities would continue to fill prescriptions at no cost. The package was part of an overall Defense Department proposal to cut spending by 2.5 percent. (Federal News Radio)
  • Lawmakers are renewing scrutiny on the Postal Service after its $3.3 billion loss for the first quarter this year. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) says he’s “deeply concerned” about the agency’s plan to climb out of the red. He’s the latest lawmaker to weigh in on the Postal Service’s plan to close facilities. He says that would make it “virtually impossible” to deliver first-class mail within three days in rural America. President Barack Obama renewed a call for ending Saturday mail service in his budget proposal yesterday. (Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.))
  • The Office of Management and Budget is about to get tougher on technology projects that are late or over budget. Federal CIO Steven Van Roekel says he’s ordering more TechStat review sessions, taking them up to once a month. And, he’ll create a government-wide SWAT team to swoop in on the really bad projects. That idea was tried out last fall when the Office of Personnel Management botched the launch of a new online government jobs system. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Obama administration says its 2013 budget proposal is a good way for Congress to avoid automatic budget cuts, or sequestration. Although federal spending would grow, agency discretionary spending would drop. The White House claims its budget reduces the growth of future deficits by $4 trillion. To avoid sequestration, scheduled to start in January 2013, Congress and the White House only needed to find $1.2 trillion in future cuts. The sticking point for Republicans is, the Obama budget numbers only work if Congress enacts big tax increases. (Federal News Radio)
  • Lawmakers are set to vote on measures to give the federal government oversight for subways. There are no federal safety standards governing subways and light-rail systems right now. The Washington Post reports that a 45-year-old law lets rail agencies set their own rules. There are few — if any — state regulations. The legislation may pass this time, the Post says. The measures are connected to reauthorization bills for federal highways and transit spending. (Washington Post)
  • A bill in Congress could strip wildlife agents of their firearms. The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association opposes the bill. The association says most reasonable people know that game wardens and wildlife agents routinely encounter hunters and others with weapons. In a press release, the union says agents and officers enforcing environmental laws are nine times as likely to be assaulted with a weapon than other law enforcement officers. The bill’s sponsor. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says wildlife officers use the current law to put violators in prison, but the law’s authors intended it to be used only for civil penalties. (Senate.gov)