Friday morning federal headlines – July 13, 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.

  • The sequestration war of words on Capitol Hill has intensified. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sent a sharp retort to House Republicans. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) had demanded Reid come up with a budget plan that doesn’t harm the military. Reid said he’ll come up with a plan, but it’ll include tax hikes. Reid accused the Republicans of sticking to a rigid, extreme ideology. (Federal News Radio)
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans to deactivate nine interior stations. The agency said it would put more resources on stations closer to borders. First CBP must formally notify Congress. Then it will shutter stations in California, Montana and Idaho plus six stations in Texas. Forty-eight Border Patrol members will be relocated to nearby stations or sectors. The cuts come after the Office of Field Operations found a payroll shortfall for 2012. CBP estimated the closing of nine border stations would initially cost $2.5 million for relocation. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Food and Drug Administration plans to build a database of genetic codes of food-borne bacteria. That will help the agency pinpoint sources of contamination faster than it can now. The agency is teaming up with the University of California, Davis for the project. The Wall Street Journal reported the database would encompass 100,000 types of killer food bugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would also join the effort. NIH will eventually host the database online. FDA has hired Agilent Technologies, a chemical and analysis company, to aid in the effort. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • A New England governor has once again dissed the IRS. Earlier this week, Gov. Paul LePage (R-Maine) likened the federal government to the Gestapo once the health care individual mandate kicks in. He backed off Tuesday, but said it again yesterday. The Atlantic Wire reported LePage spoke to a weekly newspaper in Vermont at a fundraiser. He said the IRS was moving in the direction of killing a lot of people. Asked why, LePage said the Affordable Care Act would end up rationing health care. The National Treasury Employees Union was quick to re-react. President Colleen Kelly said LePage should not only apologize, but also reflect on the dignity of his office. (The Atlantic Wire)
  • National Guard members are telling Congress: Don’t put the breaks on our sponsorship of race cars. Lawmakers are considering doing just that in efforts to save the Pentagon money. But the National Guard Association said recruiting was not what it used to be. Only one in four young people was eligible to join. Television ads don’t have as big an impact as before. The association said that was why the Guard was using motorsports and musicians to spread the word. The National Guard sponsors NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Army and Air Force also tattoo their brands on race cars. (National Guard)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is falling short of a new law meant to reduce improper payments, according an inspector general report. The IG said OPM was not complying with nearly a third of the law’s reporting requirements. The agency lacked internal controls, a clear policy and a plan. OPM civilian employees’ retirement, health benefits, life insurance and background-investigations programs. Together they made about $390 million last year in improper payments. OPM disputed key findings, saying it has made a lot of progress on this issue and its performance was good. But it said it was coming up against legal and administrative barriers when it tried to recover some payments. (OPM)
  • House Republicans may set aside their version of the farm bill to avoid looking bad. The bill passed the Agriculture committee on Thursday, but Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he hasn’t decided whether he would schedule it for a floor vote. The bill includes a $16 billion cut to SNAP benefits or the food stamp program as it is more commonly known. But, according to Reuters, now Republicans privately fear they may look heartless if they pass the bill and right before an election. The Senate version of the farm bill also includes a cut to SNAP benefits, although it is a fourth of the size of the House version. House Democrats have called the cuts during hard economic times “immoral.” (Federal News Radio)
  • Apple computers aren’t green enough for federal buyers. The company has withdrawn 39 types of desktops, laptops and monitors from a registrar of environmentally-friendly electronics. The certification group EPEAT told this to the Wall Street Journal. It sets back Apple’s attempts to attract more federal customers. Agencies have to make sure 95 percent of their electronics purchases meet E-PEAT standards. It’s hard to take Apple’s computers apart, which means it is hard to recycle components. The decision does not impact IPhones and iPads because there are no EPEAT standards for those types of devices. (The Wall Street Journal)