Friday morning federal headlines – June 15, 2012

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

  • Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) has put a pro-federal-employee amendment into the Senate’s 2013 financial services funding bill. That bill cleared the Appropriations Committee yesterday. Mikulski’s language would continue a ban on competition between federal agencies and contractors for service work. It would also stop outsourcing unless an agency can prove a cost savings. Plus it would prohibit arbitrary staff cuts by requiring agencies to match work with funds on hand. Mikulski complained that federal employees are the first to take a hit whenever deficit reduction comes up. (Federal News Radio)
  • Looming federal budget cuts from the sequester are making things difficult for contractors. That’s because agency buyers are uncertain about the future. So they put off contract awards. Debbie James, head of government relations for SAIC, said the delays make it harder for companies like hers to deliver products and services. She said it would be helpful if Pentagon contracting officers in particular loosened up a little. Most analysts expect no sequester-avoiding budget deal until after November elections. (Federal News Radio)
  • American Indian tribes say the Internal Revenue Service was crossing the line into their territory, and they wanted the agency to pull back. Tribal leaders told a Senate panel yesterday that the IRS was fishing for revenue by taxing housing, school clothes, burial aid and other services that the tribes provide their members. They said that infringes on tribal sovereignty and violates treaties between the tribes and the United States. But the IRS said it was talking with tribes and gathering recommendations from members. The agency said the rules governing what it can tax are too foggy. (Federal News Radio)
  • It won’t be a friendly coffee klatch. In fact, both sides will probably be working all weekend to get ready. But Attorney General Eric Holder has proposed a Monday morning meeting with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) Issa has been pushing Holder to release documents about how Justice handled the Fast and Furious gun walking project. He theatened to end the standoff by scheduling a contempt-of-Congress vote. Holder has sent thousands of pages of documents. Now he said he was prepared to deliver the ones Issa really wants. (Federal News Radio)
  • In its annual Sustainability Report, the Postal Service announced that it has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 7.4 percent since 2008. That’s the equivalent of taking 200,000 cars off the road. That puts the Postal Service well on its way to meeting its goal of a 20 percent cut by 2020. The Postal Service maintains the largest network of buildings in the U.S.and has installed energy auditing systems in many of its buildings to track energy waste. It also owns 41,000 alternative fuel-capable vehicles and has implemented 8,000 more walking and bicycle routes for mail carriers. (USPS)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency is strengthening pollution standards and risking an election-year backlash. A lawsuit forced the agency’s hand and it will announce its proposal later today. It would reduce the amount of soot that could be released into the air. A federal court ordered the EPA to act after 11 states sued. They said current standards are leading to lung and heart problems. EPA officials said most counties are already complying with the new standards and would not have to take further action. Environmentalists and public-health advocates are likely to cheer the rule, but lawmakers and industry may accuse the agency of stifling the economy. (Federal News Radio)
  • A new report says the government’s widespread attempts to catch Medicaid fraud have cost it millions — $80 million to be exact. The audits by contractors were so ineffective that Health and Human Services put a stop to them. Investigators at the Government Accountability Office said the auditors were using federal data without critical information, like Medicaid recipients’ names and addresses. The federal government does not share names of potential fraudsters with states, which means states cannot verify that those providers are in fact in their Medicaid programs. HHS said the independent audits were just a part of their attempts to wipe out Medicaid fraud. Other efforts, like interagency strike teams, have been more successful. The news came as a surprise to senators, who held a hearing on the issue yesterday. (Federal News Radio)