Tuesday federal headlines – January 14, 2014

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.

  • Top congressional negotiators have finished work on $1 trillion spending bill for 2014. It fleshes out the top-line agreement Congress agreed to and the President signed last month. The bill includes an additional $85 billion for war spending in Afghanistan. The agreement funds Obamacare and new military planes and ships. It replaces sequestration, but leaves overall spending $79 billion lower than the peak reached in 2010. The 1,500-page bill was released by the House and Senate appropriations chairs, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.). The House today will vote on a three-day continuing resolution to give members of both houses 72 hours to review the bill. (Associated Press)
  • The $1 trillion 2014 spending bill includes a lot of crowd-pleasers. Hourly federal employees get a 1 percent raise, their first in three years. The bill backs off a plan to cut the pension growth rate for military retirees and spouses. It fully funds $6.7 billion in food aid for low-income pregnant women and their children. The Transportation Department gets $600 million for infrastructure projects. The Pentagon gets 29 new F-35 fighters and eight new Navy ships. Both Republicans and Democrats have items to like and dislike in the bill. High speed rail spending favored by Democrats was deleted. Also left out was an amendment curbing the EPA, favored by Republicans. (Federal News Radio)
  • Young people still aren’t convinced they need health insurance. Health and Human Services has released a profile of people signing up on HealthCare.gov. Those ages 18 to 34 make up less than a quarter of total enrollment. Independent experts say that’s not a bad percentage for now, but it needs to be more like 40 percent to keep premiums down for the rest of us. It could still happen. They have until the end of March to sign up before risking tax penalties. All told, 2.2 million people signed up for insurance through HealthCare.gov last year. That’s about two-thirds the number HHS once anticipated. (Health and Human Services)
  • The FBI won’t seek criminal charges against IRS employees in the tax exempt division. The IRS has been under investigation for allegedly targeting tax-exempt applications from conservative groups. Sources tell the Wall Street Journal, the FBI has concluded there was no criminal intent. Instead, agents say a mismanaged IRS bureaucracy was dealing with laws it didn’t understand. The FBI’s findings are unlikely to tamp down the political controversy surrounding the IRS. Republicans in Congress have criticized the Justice Department for appointing a prosecutor in the case who made donations to the Obama presidential campaign. (Wall Street Journal)
  • TRICARE will close its walk-in administrative service centers in the United States. The cutoff date is Apr. 1. The 189 centers are located within hospitals and other health care facilities. They are operated by contractors to the tune of $50 million per year, according to a TRICARE statement. Half of the walk-in customers are there to submit in- and out-processing requests, or requests to change primary providers. The rest are billing questions. TRICARE officials say all of these changes can be made online or over the telephone. They say the TRICARE website can handle the increased traffic. Overseas service centers will continue to handle administrative tasks for walk-ins. (Defense Department)
  • The Army Chief of Staff might not have realized it, but he picked a fight with the Army National Guard. And the Guard isn’t taking it lying down. The National Guard Association of the United States says guardsmen are just as capable as active-duty soldiers. Last week, Army Chief Ray Odierno said each component was important, but their “capabilities are not interchangeable.” The Guard Association disagrees and says the Guard is much cheaper and more sustainable than the Army. (National Guard Association of the United States)
  • Russia has denied a visa to a journalist working for the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, part of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow is protesting to its Russian counterpart, which calls veteran correspondent David Satter “undesirable.” Satter is well-known in Russia, having first worked there in the 1970s. The move could reflect jitters at the Kremlin over critical reporting so close to the Sochi Olympics. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty President Kevin Klose says the ban is a “fundamental violation of the right of free speech.” (Associated Press)