Wednesday morning federal headlines – July 25, 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.

  • If you owe child support payments, it may be coming out of your Thrift Savings Plan account. The Federal Times reported TSP was garnishing the savings of federal employees who were behind in their payments. TSP was processing more than 1,100 child-support court orders a month. While TSP’s managers have had this power for a long time, they haven’t always used it. But in 2010 they signed a memo of understanding with the Health and Human Services Department. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board estimates 35,000 participants are behind on child support. (Federal Times)
  • The Social Security Administration is holding onto more than $130 million in payments to beneficiaries. A new inspector-general report said the agency was basically sitting on uncashed checks. For whatever reason, they were being returned to the agency. The IG said Social Security could do a better job of making sure the 140,000 or so recipients received their benefits. But the agency said tracking those people down wouldn’t be cost-effective. It said reissuing the payments would divert scarce resources from other priorities. (Federal News Radio)
  • Can you put a price tag on a dream? Yes, according to new documents from the Homeland Security Department. And the price is $585 million. That’s how much it estimated President Barack Obama’s so-called “Dream Act Plan” could cost to administer. The plan would grant work permits to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The DHS-report also suggested a $465 fee for applicants to offset the cost. DHS expected more than 1 million people to apply for the special permit. (Federal News Radio)
  • It might have been a year since lawmakers tore up Washington with their debt-ceiling showdown, but we’re only getting a survey of the damage now. The Government Accountability Office reported that delays in extending the debt ceiling forced the Treasury Department to take “extraordinary actions” to the tune of $1.3 billion in fiscal 2011. Plus, GAO said, time spent on debt-ceiling related actions diverted further time and resources away from important cash-management duties. (GAO)
  • A contract protest may delay construction of a glossy new American embassy in London. The Washington Business Journal reported the Government Accountability Office has sided with a losing bidder. Bethesda-based Clark Construction and Foulger-Pratt competed jointly for the project and lost out to B.L Harbert of Alabama. Now GAO said the evaluation record doesn’t support the State Department’s choice of Harbert. The contract is worth $447 million and the building is a point of pride for the State Department. Officials hope to move in 2017, when they said the embassy would contribute to London’s architectural heritage. (Washington Business Journal)
  • The House has voted to stop the Labor Department from imposing new rules on child farm laborers. The department already has said it wouldn’t go ahead with those rules, but House members said they wanted to make sure the agency couldn’t change course in the future. Labor backed off the safety proposal following a public outcry. The plan would have banned most children under 16 from operating power machines, working with dangerous animals and working in grain elevators, silos and stockyards. Small farmers with family-owned businesses said the rules would endanger their livelihoods. A similar bill is in the Senate. (Federal News Radio)