Thursday federal headlines – June 27, 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.

  • Same sex spouses of federal employees are now eligible for health insurance and other benefits following the Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act. The court ruled that parts of DOMA are unconstitutional. One recent count put the number of federal employees in same-sex marriage at 34,000. The Office of Personnel Management promises to update policies in light of the decision. Currently, same-sex spouses are not eligible for the Federal Employee Health Benefits and related plans. They can’t receive assigned benefits under the federal retirement systems. OPM asked for patience as it changes those policies. (Federal News Radio)
  • Hong Kong says U.S. officials sent sloppy paperwork in their request for extradition of leaker Edward Snowden. The documents lacked Snowden’s passport number and were unclear about his middle name. As a result, after weeks of hanging around Hong Kong, Snowden was allowed to fly to Russia, where he remains out of reach. The White House disputes Hong Kong’s version of events. It says Hong Kong was influenced by the Chinese government in Beijing. (Federal News Radio)
  • While some agencies are canceling furloughs altogether, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is considering a second round. The American Federation of Government Employees represents agency staff. It said enough is enough and noted that the agency has a backlog of more than 70,000 cases. The EEOC plans to decide next week whether to require employees to take three more days of unpaid leave, bringing the total to eight furlough days. (AFGE)
  • The acting chief of the Internal Revenue Service faces tough questioning today before the House Ways and Means Committee. Lawmakers will ask Danny Werfel about his recent report on problems in the tax exempt group. The issue has divided party lines, since Werfel revealed that liberal groups may have been targeted in applications for tax exempt status, not just conservative applicants. Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said Werfel’s report left too many unanswered questions. (Federal News Radio)
  • National Security Agency employees got a vigorous “atta boy” from their boss, Gen. Keith Alexander. In an agency-wide memo, he told them, the ongoing national debate is not about their performance. He called NSA employees real heroes and extraordinary people. Alexander praised them for preventing 50 terrorist attacks but causing no civil liberties violations using the hotly- debated surveillance tools. He asked them to not be distracted and stick to the job, while Alexander and the management team take the heat. (NSA)
  • The Merit Systems Protection Board has granted whistleblowers a victory. It says the new Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act applies retroactively. It helps federal whistleblowers whose cases were pending when the law was passed. The board said it was swayed by the large and varied arguments on behalf of former Coast Guard employee Thomas Day. He sued the Homeland Security Department, accusing it of retaliation. He was reassigned after reporting kickbacks to a contractor. (MSPB)
  • Two unions representing NASA workers want Congress to extend a ban against layoffs that is set to expire this fall. The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and the American Federation of Government Employees have written to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.). They say the ban should go for another three years. Congress first enacted it following the Columbia shuttle explosion. The accident investigation board found staffing cuts had deprived NASA of critical knowledge that could have helped prevent the tragedy. (IFPTE)