Tuesday morning federal headlines – March 12, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Just when you thought there was an app for everything, Thrift Savings Plan has issued a warning for iPhone users about an app called TSP Funds. The app is not sanctioned by TSP. It’s being offered in the Apple App store by a third party called iSystemIntegrator. It asks TSP participants to enter their account login information and offers access to personalized fund performance data. TSP warns that providing this information could pose a security risk. (TSP)
  • Congress appears ready to rescue fiscal 2013 just in time to start arguing about fiscal 2014. Senate Democratic and Republican leaders have agreed on a catch-all continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown when the current CR expires March 27. The bill is expected to pass. It largely mirrors a House bill passed last week and extends the current federal pay freeze through the end of 2013. If enacted, the government would be funded through Sept. 30 at 2012 spending levels. The Senate version keeps the sequestration cuts in place, but gives civilian agencies some flexibility about how to apply them. For 2014, whether to raise taxes will be a major sticking point between the two parties. (Federal News Radio)
  • Jack Byrne didn’t start Geico, but he was responsible for its modern day success. Byrne, the insurance industry legend who saved Geico from bankruptcy, has died at the age of 80. Byrne joined the Government Employees Insurance Company in 1976, just after it had lost $124 million. The Wall Street Journal reports, regulators were ready to shut it down. By cutting staff, closing offices and raising premiums, Byrne turned the company around. Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway now owns Geico. Buffett called Byrne the Babe Ruth of insurance. Byrne was inducted into the Insurance Hall of Fame in 2009. An actuary by training, Byrne joined the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company in 1959. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Controlling what Americans put in their mouths is proving a difficult challenge for government. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said her agency is stymied in writing food labeling regulations for restaurants and vending machines. The FDA issued a proposal in 2011, as required by the Affordable Care Act. But the rule has languished in the face of opposition from various groups. Hamburg told the Associated Press, FDA staff is working hard to sort out all of the objections from restaurants, convenience stores, supermarkets and other types of food outlets. Hamburg’s admission comes just as a court threw out a New York City law banning large servings of sugar sweetened beverages. (Federal News Radio)
  • Energy is the latest department targeted by the chair of a Senate panel on government contracting. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has asked Secretary Steven Chu to explain a $150 million grant to a Michigan company. The department failed to stop payments even after it discovered LG Chem was not producing the green batteries it had promised. McCaskill wants to know what progress the department has made following a scathing inspector general report. The Washington Post reports, McCaskill has similar questions for the State Department. She wants an audit of its grantmaking process. (The Washington Post)
  • President Barack Obama’s pick to be chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission goes before the Senate Banking Committee today. Manhattan attorney Mary Jo White may face tough questions about her work representing some of the nation’s biggest banks and corporations. But she is expected to win confirmation from the full Senate. She would be the first former prosecutor to lead the regulating agency. The panel will also question Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head Richard Cordray. He has never been confirmed. He was appointed during a Congressional recess. (Federal News Radio)
  • The union that represents Department of Housing and Urban Development workers is challenging the agency’s furlough plans. HUD proposes closing for seven days scattered throughout the summer, effectively lengthening some holiday weekends. The first day would be May 10. The American Federation of Government Employees said workers want more flexibility. Meanwhile, the National Archives is not furloughing staff, but budget cuts are forcing it to reduce visiting hours at two locations. The National Archives Building will keep exhibits open to the public seven days a week, but it won’t offer extended summer hours as in years past. Research rooms there and at the College Park facility will stop offering evening hours. (AFGE)