Friday federal headlines – November 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.

  • Some federal employees might find themselves with a new boss pretty soon, thanks to a rule change in the Senate. The Democratic majority invoked the so-called nuclear option over objections from some of its own members and the GOP. Now that a simple majority of senators, rather than 60, can vote to end filibusters, several presidential nominees should find out pretty soon whether they’ll get the job . Picks now in limbo include Federal Housing Finance Agency nominee Mel Watt, IRS choice John Koskinen and current Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas. He’s up for Deputy Homeland Security Secretary. (Associated Press)
  • Four senators have introduced a measure they say will protect military whistleblowers, especially those who report sexual misconduct. Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) have paired with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). Their proposal would extend current protections to witnesses as well as victims. It would give servicemembers a year, rather than the current 60 days, to file a report of wrongdoing. They say that’s more in line with the timeframe given to other federal employees or contractors. A similar measure has passed the House. The lawmakers cite a Government Accountability Office report. It says more than 60 percent of service members who reported sexual assault last year experienced retaliation. (Sen. Mark Warner)
  • The U.S. military is looking for ways to expand operations in the Arctic. The Navy will prepare plans this year for what it must do to compete in the vast northern waters. Options include hardening ships, filling in satellite communications gaps and building new deep water ports. Sea lanes are opening because of melting ice caps. Russia and other nations are competing for oil and gas deposits. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says increasing commerce and traffic require more security. (Associated Press)
  • President Barack Obama has tapped FDA criminal investigator John Roth to be the inspector general of the Homeland Security Department. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper is promising the panel will vet Roth in a timely manner. The inspector general’s office has been without a permanent head for nearly 1,000 days, according to the Project on Government Oversight. A Senate panel is investigating the acting inspector general, Charles Edwards, for abusing the office. Roth spent decades at the Justice Department before coming to the FDA last year. In May, he spoke with us about the FDA’s efforts to go rules violators. (Project on Government Oversight)
  • U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers plans to retire early next month. Federal Times reports Chambers says she is ready for new challenges. Chambers fought a nearly seven-year battle to reclaim her job after she was fired in 2004. She’d made comments to the press that budget pressures were endangering public safety. After several court appeals, she was reinstated in January 2011. Chambers started her law enforcement career 35 years ago in Montgomery County, Md. (Federal Times)
  • Another chapter in the economic bailout that started in 2008 has closed. The Treasury Department says it will sell the last of the government’s General Motors stock. That’s 31 million shares. At current prices, the government will bring in $10 billion less than its original investment of $50 billion. At the height of the financial crisis, the government took a nearly two thirds stake in GM. The deal benefited unions by giving them a stake in the company. But it sidestepped bankruptcy protections for GM bond holders. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Washington Times is suing the Coast Guard for seizing documents at the home of a former reporter. The newspaper says Coast Guard investigators last summer searched the home of Audrey Hudson and her husband, a civilian Coast Guard employee, allegedly looking for guns. (Associated Press)