Monday federal headlines – April 28, 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 users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • They’re back. After a two week recess, the House and Senate return today. They’ll concentrate on getting a 2015 budget in shape for the Sept. 30 deadline. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promises to leave plenty of floor time to debate budget bills. It didn’t pass any on time last year. The House will also try to pass its required 12 budget bills. But it might get bogged down on funding for the Affordable Care Act, the EPA and the IRS. Congress is unlikely to deal with minimum wages, immigration reform or tax code overhaul. (Associated Press)
  • The House considers a bill to shed more light on government spending. The DATA Act is the first item on the agenda when lawmakers return this afternoon. Supporters say it will help the government turn federal spending information into open data that could be used, compared and analyzed. It would standardize financial information across agencies. The bill has already passed the Senate. (Congress)
  • Fewer people are getting government security clearances. GovExec reports a 9 percent drop in both new clearances and renewals since 2011. Nearly 780,000 people got clearances. The Director of National Intelligence says agencies are reviewing clearance-holders as a 20-year-old executive order requires them to do. Others say the drop shows the government is coming down from a post- 9/11 high, when it required many more employees and contractors to get clearances. (GovExec)
  • Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler will propose a new set of rules for the Internet. A federal appeals court struck down rules passed under Wheeler’s predecessor. Wheeler wants to let carriers charge content providers more for high-priority traffic, such as videos or large software downloads. The proposal would have safeguards to prevent carriers from discriminating against certain content. Consumer advocates worry pay-for-priority would make it harder for startups to compete with established internet giants. The new proposals won’t be available publicly for a couple weeks. (Associated Press)
  • The landmark Old Post Office building will close for two years starting Thursday. The National Park Service says it will reopen in the spring of 2016 after extensive renovations. It will become a mixed-use facility with restaurants, conference center and hotel operated by Donald Trump. Trump signed a 60-year lease with the General Services Administration last year. The building is 115 years old. It sits at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th Street NW. Its 315-foot tower makes it the third tallest building in the District. (Associated Press)
  • On his trip to Asia, President Obama has heard the same question over and over. Will the United States honor its commitments to security, should China make a territory grab somewhere along the South and East China seas? The Wall Street Journal reports, Asian leaders are spooked by what they see as a tepid response by the United States to Russian seizure of Crimea. The Defense Department responds by preparing new options for how it might respond to Chinese provocations. They range from displays of B-2 bombers flying by, to aircraft carrier exercises near Chinese coastal waters. Military officials say these and other steps can be taken without risking a shooting war. In Japan, Obama says U.S. security commitments are absolute. The President returns tomorrow. (Wall Street Journal)
  • West Point is trying to attract more women. Males outnumber female cadets five to one at the military academy. West Point is increasing outreach to female high-schoolers, sending them letters about successful women graduates. The academy is trying to coach promising female candidates through the application process. It is not changing application standards. A greater percentage of students at the Air Force and Naval academies are women — 22 percent — compared with West Point’s 16 percent. (Associated Press)
  • For the first time, Agriculture Department officials who work with food banks must worry not just about stocking shelves, but making sure the food meets religious requirements. A new law directs USDA to buy emergency supplies of kosher and halal products. The challenge is finding vendors who can supply the food that meets the dietary standards at a cost comparable to the other items on food bank shelves. A spokeswoman says the process will take some time. The department buys some kosher and halal foods now but not in an organized, regulated way. (Associated Press)