Friday morning federal headlines – March 22, 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.

  • The Defense Department is holding off on the release of furlough notices for civilian employees. Instead, officials are taking a wait-and-see on furloughs. The notices were supposed to be delivered today through next Thursday, but no notices were ever issued. Congress passed a funding bill that hands DoD a regular 2013 budget. Although the sequester cuts are still in place, the bill gives clearer direction on how DoD must allocate its funds. However, a Pentagon spokesman didn’t rule out furloughs. So notices could start going out in two weeks. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama’s signature is all that remains in order to avert a government shutdown next week. The House and Senate have wrapped up work on a bill to fund the government until Sep. 30. It gives regular funding to the Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments. Most others get funding at continuing resolution levels. Sequestration cuts remain in place for everybody. The bill extends the federal pay freeze until Dec. 31. It prevents the Postal Service from ending Saturday service. And it restores funding for military tuition assistance programs. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal Communications Commission sources tell Reuters Chairman Julius Genachowski is announcing his resignation today. It’s not a surprise. Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell did the same earlier this week. That fueled rumors about Genachowski, a Democrat. Replacements would have an easier time getting through the Senate confirmation process together rather than separately. Genachowski would not leave that early. His five-year term ends in June. At the FCC, Genachowski has pushed for more access to high-speed Internet in rural America. (Reuters)
  • The FAA is getting flack from airlines over the possibility of air traffic control furloughs. The Wall Street Journal reports, the trade group, Airlines For America, has sent a legal memo to FAA officials. They argue the FAA can meet its budget cutting goals without resorting to furloughs. The federal agency has warned that controller furloughs could cause widespread flight delays. Administrator Michael Huerta disputes the airlines’ claims that the agency is making passengers political pawns in its budget battles. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • A Senate panel has approved Seattle businesswoman Sally Jewell’s bid to be the next Interior Secretary. The Energy Committee voted in her favor 19 to 3, but only after one lawmaker got the department to agree to review a controversial decision in the senator’s home state. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) threatened to hold up the nomination because the department had blocked construction of a road through an Alaskan wildlife refuge. (Federal News Radio)
  • The new spending bill passed by Congress blocks the Postal Service from ending Saturday deliveries. But there appears to be some wiggle room on that and some GOP lawmakers are urging the agency to proceed anyway. Government auditors tell lawmakers a continuing resolution like this legislation maintains the status quo. That’s delivery six days a week. But Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) tell the Postal Service the current law doesn’t specify what kind of mail delivery has to happen. The Postal Service plans to keep package delivery going six days a week, canceling only first-class mail. (Federal News Radio)
  • Congress is urging the TSA to keep banning all knives on airplanes. One-hundred thirty-three House members have signed a letter to Administrator John Pistole. In it, they say they support a risk-based approach to security, but this isn’t it. One lead author, Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) has called the TSA’s decision “borderline idiotic.” Another, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) is sponsoring legislation to give a TSA advisory panel more authority. The agency did not consult the panel before it announced it would let passengers bring small knives and bats on board. Another bill would block the new policy altogether. (House)