Thursday morning federal headlines – Feb. 28, 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.

  • A Republican senator will introduce her own alternative to sequestration today. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) would save money by eliminating overlapping federal programs and cutting waste in Medicare and Medicaid. But it also freezes federal salaries for another year and reduces retirement benefits for current and future employees. GovExec reports, Ayotte’s plan would raise the amount federal workers contribute to their annuities. And it would end the Federal Employees Retirement System for people hired after Dec. 31. Ayotte’s bill also takes aim at funding for the Affordable Care Act. (GovExec)
  • Jacob Lew will be sworn in today as the new Treasury secretary after yesterday’s easy Senate confirmation vote. He’ll likely join the negotiations between the White House and Congress over the budget crisis. Last week the Washington Post reported that Lew engineered the sequestration deal now causing all the the trouble. Lew is considered an expert on federal budgetary matters. Most recently he was President Obama’s chief of staff. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Smithsonian says budget cuts will not force it to curtail museum hours. Attractions, including the National Zoo, will stick to their regular schedules. But the Institution will freeze hiring, cut back on outside contractors, training, research and travel. And it will delay maintenance and new construction. It is joining a few other agencies that do not plan to furlough employees. Those include the Social Security Administration and the Small Business Administration. The Veterans Affairs Department is exempt from sequestration cuts. (Federal News Radio)
  • A new plan for a joint Veterans Affairs-Defense Department electronic health record got a frosty reception on Capitol Hill. House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller called it a U-turn. He accused the two departments of wasting billions of dollars before changing their minds. VA and DoD had announced a plan to merge their health records systems, and get the job done by 2017. Last month they said they would work on getting the data to match, but not try to build a single system. VA CIO Roger Baker told the committee, the original plan was too risky. He recommended DoD adopt VA’s Vista health records system. (Federal News Radio)
  • Misery loves company, so maybe it should invite federal workers to lunch. Federal News Radio’s online survey on federal morale shows, you’re feeling pretty glum. Respondents say pay freezes, ineffective leadership and fed bashing from Congress and the public are “morale killers.” One federal employee says he likes his job but hates the “anti-gov worker attitude.” Eighty percent say colleagues have quit because of morale issues. (Federal News Radio)
  • As the government slides headlong toward the budget sequester, a new worry is emerging on Capitol Hill. The continuing resolution expires March 27. That means lawmakers must come up with a budget plan to prevent a government shutdown. House Republicans are working on a plan to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, while keeping the sequester cuts in place. The Veterans Affairs and Defense Departments would get line-by-line budgets so the sequester would not be across the board. Senate Democrats pooh-pooh that idea. Congressional leaders meet with President Obama tomorrow at the White House. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House says no more bonuses for federal workers unless required by law. Those pats on the back for jobs well done won’t come with money anymore. That’s one of several last-minute directions the Office of Management and Budget is giving agencies as we get closer to sequestration. OMB’s new memo says agencies should also freeze hiring, training, conferences and travel. (Federal News Radio)