Tuesday morning federal headlines – July 31, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The Postal Service says it will default on a payment due tomorrow. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe says cash is so low, USPS won’t make a $5.5 billion payment to its retirees’ health benefits account. It will probably also miss a $5.6 billion payment in September. Tomorrow’s default would be the first ever for the Postal Service. Donahoe says mail delivery and payroll obligations to current workers won’t stop. But the long term fiscal situation for USPS is deteriorating. Congress has been debating what to do for months, but can’t agree on a plan. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Treasury inspector general is urging the IRS to collect money owed to it by other federal agencies. In one case, the Treasury Department itself never paid the IRS $26 million. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration looked at interagency work done by IRS. It found IRS officials didn’t always get an accurate count on their overhead costs. So they didn’t always charge other agencies the right amount. The IG says that runs against the IRS’ own regulations. In 2011, the IRS took on 89 jobs for other agencies. (Federal News Radio)
  • A vote to avoid a government shutdown is likely today on Capitol Hill. As they head out of town for their August recess, members of Congress are nowhere near a budget agreement for fiscal 2013, which starts Oct. 1. So Democratic and Republican leaders are close to an agreement on a continuing resolution. That would keep the government operating at spending levels equal to this year’s budget. The CR could be as long as six months. But members still have to deal with how to avoid sequestration, set to occur January 3. That debate is unlikely before the November elections. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Labor Department is trying to calm down contractors fearful of mass layoffs in January. Some firms have said federal law requires them to warn employees in November, just days before the presidential election, that they could lose their jobs under sequestration. Not so, says the Labor Department. It calls such warnings premature and overly broad. It says sequestration is not a sure thing. And agencies would have some say in how they would implement the spending cuts. That means the ax may fall on some contracts but not others. And it says cuts would not necessarily come right away. Rep. Buck McKeon (R- Calif.) dismissed the memo, saying dramatic cuts would force huge job losses. (Federal News Radio)
  • Calling all real estate buyers: You may be able to own a piece of NASA history soon for as little as a dollar a square foot. The General Services Administration is placing two buildings in NASA’s Glenn Research Center up for auction. In the 1960s, they housed NASA engineers and administrative staff. Now they’re part of GSA’s ongoing effort to dispose of excess properties. The buildings, located in Fairview Park, Ohio, contain almost 200,000 square feet combined, plus a parking lot and 10 acres of land. The starting minimum bid is $200,000. (General Services Administration)
  • GOP lawmakers are blaming five federal workers in particular for Operation Fast and Furious. The draft report points a finger at five Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives employees. They include the agency director down to the special-agent-in-charge of the bureau’s field office in Phoenix. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R- Iowa) sponsored the report. They say former ATF head Kenneth Melson worried about the gun-tracking program. But they say he failed to make sure headquarters adequately supervised the Phoenix branch. Melson stepped down last year amid the controversy. (Federal News Radio)
  • Tax scofflaws could forget about federal work under a bill being debated by the House today. Sponsor Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) says feds or contractors who are seriously delinquent on their taxes should be fired or lose funding. The House also plans to take up a bill to make Thrift Savings Fund accounts subject to a federal tax levy. If that’s put a frown on your face, here’s one that might make you smile: the chamber could give final passage to a bill that lets some senior federal officials skip the Senate confirmation process. Under the bill, the Senate would no longer need to approve officials for roles like NOAA’s chief scientist, the commissioner of education statistics or assistant secretary of public affairs at Health and Human Services. Read more.(Federal News Radio)