Thursday federal headlines – Dec. 27, 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.

  • Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has warned congressional leaders the United States will hit its debt limit this Monday, the last day of 2012. Geithner said Treasury can take extraordinary measures to give the government $200 billion more in spending overhead. But because of political uncertainty, Geithner says it’s unclear how much time that would give Congress and the White House. No agreement is in sight on a tax and spending deal to avoid sequestration next week. Extraordinary measures include borrowing from Thrift Savings Plan funds and suspending issuance of State and Local Government Series Treasury securities. (Treasury Department)
  • The U.S. Postal Service has cut leaders’ salaries in the midst of its financial crisis, the Federal Times reports. Still, 13 executives earned more than Cabinet secretaries in 2011. However, that’s down from 38 the year before. A spokesman said USPS froze salaries and bonuses as it struggled to maintain solvency. The agency runs on operating expenses rather than tax revenue. It has greater freedom to pay employees on par with private competitors and has argued that it needs to do so to retain top talent. (Federal Times)
  • A new letter to lawmakers suggests Transportation Department leaders don’t think much of the inspector general’s advice. The IG told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee more than 600 of its recommendations to improve agency management and reduce fraud, waste and abuse remain open. Several items for the Federal Aviation Administration top the list of priorities, including setting up a master schedule for the Next Generation Air Transportation System — now estimated to cost about $1 billion a year. In the long term, the IG said the department needs to implement smart ID cards for all employees. (Transportation Department Office of the Inspector General)
  • Hawaii’s new senator will be Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz. He’s flying back to Washington with President Barack Obama aboard Air Force One. Schatz fills the seat vacated by last week’s death of Daniel Inouye, who served in the Senate for nine terms. In appointing Schatz, Governor Neil Abercrombie ignored the wishes of Inouye, who expressed preference for another successor. Schatz says his priorities will be global warming and keeping federal funds flowing to Hawaii. He also wants federal recognition for Native Hawaiians to form their own government. (Federal News Radio
  • Newly released documents show the FBI had more than a passing interest in last year’s Occupy Wall Street movement. The FBI monitored the Occupy protests closely in cities throughout the United States, according to CNN. It used counterterrorism agents, who communicated closely with local law enforcement agencies and nearby businesses. Early on, the FBI warned the New York Stock Exchange about what it termed a planned anarchist protest. The documents show FBI officials were worried a lone nut might glom onto the Occupy movement for his or her own purposes. (CNN)
  • The Senate plans to vote today on a controversial law that makes it easier for federal agents to spy on Americans. Lawmakers have waited until the last minute. The FISA-Amendments Act is set to expire at the end of this year. The White House says the law, which enables agents to eavesdrop on phone calls and read emails without a warrant, is its top national-security priority.The House already has voted to reauthorize the law.