Wednesday morning federal headlines – Feb. 6, 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.

  • Postmaster General Pat Donahoe will announce later this morning a plan to stop first-class mail delivery on Saturdays. Medicines, packages and other priority mail would still be delivered. The move could save $2 billion a year and would go in effect Aug. 1. It’s unclear whether congressional approval is needed. This comes just after USPS rated highly on a consumer trust survey. Of the 700 agencies and companies, the Postal Service rated fourth overall and first in government as the most trustworthy. The Postal Service credits its letter carriers who have close ties to their communities. (Federal News Radio/USPS)
  • When Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) watched popular movie Lincoln, something didn’t seem right. Courtney was surprised to see the film depict two of his House predecessors vote “no” on the 13th Amendment to end slavery. Courtney did a little research, aided by the Congressional Research Service. Sure enough, the record shows all four of Connecticut’s representatives — three Republicans and one Democrat — voted in favor of the amendment in January 1865. Courtney has asked director Steven Spielberg for a correction before the movie is burned onto DVDs. (Federal News Radio)
  • A growing number of lawmakers are calling for new limits on drone strikes. The outcry follows the release of a Justice Department memo on lethal force. The white paper outlines the administration’s policy towards killing terrorist suspects, including Americans. U.S. counterterrorism forces are using unmanned attack drones across Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The Senate Intelligence Committee is holding a confirmation hearing tomorrow on President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the CIA. Members are expected to grill John Brennan about the policy. The White House says the drone strikes have been legal, ethical and wise. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama urged Congress to pass both short-term spending cuts and higher taxes as a way to put off sequestration. The proposal is unlikely to gain much traction with Republicans. They want long-term changes to entitlement programs and no tax increases. The president’s request comes as the Congressional Budget Office predicts meager economic growth for 20-13. CBO economists predict deficits will narrow through mid-decade then start rising again to annual levels of more than $1 trillion. (Federal News Radio)
  • A small town’s worth of federal employees chose to retire in January. The Office of Personnel Management received 22,000 applications, about 1,000 more than it expected. It was able to process more than 12,000 retirement claims. That let OPM chip away at its backlog. Over the past year, OPM has been able to reduce the backlog by more than a third. Agency officials reckon they’ll eliminate the backlog by September. After that, most applicants would begin receiving their full annuities within 60 days of turning in their access cards. (Federal News Radio)
  • Sequestration talk is moving from federal water coolers to official staff meetings. According to employee unions briefed by the White House, civilian agency managers can start talking openly about how budget cuts will affect people. The National Treasury Employees Union says any notices that go out will be more furlough warnings than notices. Union President Colleen Kelley says agencies are expected to explain the range of options for dealing with budget cuts. Sequestration is scheduled for March 1 unless Congress does something. (Federal News Radio)
  • You may see more olive branches on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers concerned about Congress’ image are trying new ways to reach across the partisan divide. The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology yesterday held its first bipartisan retreat to kick off the congressional session. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) says he wants the committee to be an exception to the hopeless gridlock portrayed in media headlines. A bit of celebrity and fun may help. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye the Science Guy participated in the retreat. A consultant gave the lawmakers some tips on effective negotiation. (House)