Thursday morning federal headlines – Jan. 3, 2013

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.

  • Two powerful department heads are saying, “Thanks, but we need more,” to Congress. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he’s pleased lawmakers reached an agreement to prevent a spike in dairy prices. But he quickly adds that he’s “disappointed” they still haven’t passed a food, farm and jobs bill. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta took a similar tack yesterday, telling Congress he’s grateful for the sequestration delay, but he still wants to see a permanent solution. (USDA/DoD)
  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is streamlining itself for the 113th session. It plans to consolidate two subcommittees that oversee major agency functions, such as procurement and technology. The new subcommittee is called Government Operations. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) will chair it. Because of House tenure rules, Mica is giving up chairmanship of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) takes over for Mica. The new Government Operations Subcommittee combines jurisdictions of panels for government organization, efficiency, financial management, technology, information policy, intergovernmental relations and procurement. (Federal News Radio)
  • New members of the 113th Congress will be sworn in at noon today. Members of the House will elect the speaker. Rep.John Boehner (R-Ohio) is likely to remain in that job. The new Congress will have a lot of unfinished business to deal with left over from the 112th Congress. Within two months it will have to figure out whether to enact a budget or let sequestration budget cuts occur. As early as this week it will take up legislation to spend billions on helping victims of Hurricane Sandy. The new Congress has roughly the same balance of power, with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans the House. Eighty-two freshmen join the House, 47 Democrats and 35 Republicans. Women will total 81, 62 Democrats and 19 Republicans. (Federal News Radio)
  • The tax hike bill President Obama signed yesterday has a goodie for federal employees. Their mass transit subsidy rises to $240 per month, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012. Congress reduced the subsidy in 2011 to $125 per month, although at the time it raised the parking allowance to $240. Under the new law, employees can receive up to $240 pre-tax a month if they use subways, buses or commuter trains to get to work. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Senate confirmed Michael Huerta as the permanent administrator of the FAA. He had been the acting administrator. The vote was unanimous. GovExec reports, the move was applauded by FAA unions and aviation trade groups. The National Air Transportation Association cited Huerta’s experience in what it calls managing complex transportation challenges. One of Huerta’s big jobs will be speeding up rollout of the NextGen air traffic control system. Huerta became acting administrator in December 2011 after Randy Babbit resigned following drunk driving charges. Those charges were later dropped. (GovExec)
  • The on again, off again gambit to freeze federal salaries for another year is in the off position right now in Congress. The Senate did not act on a House-approved bill yesterday as the 112th Congress expired. GovExec reports, this means the House will have to start over again. There’s no shortage of members willing to make that try. Reps. Darryl Issa (R-Calif.), Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) and Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) have expressed support in the House. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) has also backed bills to extend the freeze. President Obama has promised a raise of 0.5 percent after March 27. (GovExec)