Wednesday morning federal headlines – Jan. 23, 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.

  • One group of federal employees could be furloughed for good, and sent to a playground to live out their lives. They’re the research chimpanzees kept by the National Institutes of Health. An advisory committee recommends that all but 50 of the agency’s hundreds of chimps be retired to the national sanctuary in northwest Louisiana. There they would live in groups of seven with plenty of room to play and climb. The NIH Council of Councils Working Group delivered those recommendations in an 86-page report. NIH Director Francis Collins will make the final decision. Several chimps from former NIH contractors have already arrived at the Sanctuary near Shreveport. (Las Vegas Sun/NIH/WTOP)
  • Finally, lawmakers are getting their chance to grill Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton about the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi. Clinton will appear in back-to-back hearings today. She had been scheduled to testify last month but got sick. Her doctor had ordered her to stay at home. After the attack in September, Clinton had appointed a commission to investigate what went wrong. Its report criticized the State Department’s failure to beef up security at diplomatic missions. Four Americans, including the ambassador, died in that attack. (Federal News Radio)
  • The House has postponed voting on a bill to extend the federal pay freeze through the rest of 2013. Instead, the House is set to vote on a measure withholding congressional pay unless lawmakers pass a budget. The no-pay provision is part of a House proposal to extend the government’s borrowing authority by three months. That means the pay freeze is off the table for now. It had been introduced by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.). Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) offered the alternative bill. (Federal News Radio)
  • The General Services Administration turns to an outsider to fill a key vacancy. Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini named Tom Sharpe from the Treasury Department as the new commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service. Mary Davie, who had been acting commissioner, returns to her assistant role. Tangherlini, who also came to GSA from Treasury, said Sharpe’s appointment would be a step forward for the agency. Sharpe has been Treasury’s senior procurement official, overseeing $6 billion in annual spending. He’s also worked at the EPA and Defense Department. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Obama administration said it won’t oppose a House Republican proposal to increase the nation’s borrowing authority for only three months. Earlier, the president said he thought the measure would be harmful to the economy. The Office of Management and Budget released a statement saying the House measure introduces unnecessary complications and needlessly perpetuates uncertainty in the nation’s fiscal system. But because the plan doesn’t call for spending cuts, the White House can live with it. The House votes on the extension today. (Federal News Radio)
  • Government auditors say the White House should pressure agencies to open up their rule-making process. The Government Accountability Office looked at major rules dating from 2003 to 2010. It found agencies failed to publish notices of proposed rule-making in more than a third of the cases, maybe because they were up against deadlines and did not have the time to respond to public comments. Even when agencies requested comments, they did not always respond to them. GAO says this is a missed opportunity to improve the final rules. It says the Office of Management and Budget should issue guidance for agencies. OMB says that’s not necessary. (GAO)