Thursday federal headlines – April 10, 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.

  • It may be time to re-open the Capitol Hill boarding houses. Outgoing Virginia Congressman Jim Moran has lost his bid to give members a $25 per diem to help with living expenses. Moran has said members of Congress are paid too little to maintain two homes — one in Washington, D.C., and one in their home districts. Moran says many members sleep in their offices and that soon only the rich will be able to run for Congress. Congressional pay stands at $174,000 a year. Members haven’t given themselves a raise in five years.
  • The Hatch Act is still very much alive. The Office of Special Counsel has taken action against IRS employees who campaigned for President Obama while on the job. In one case, an employee told a citizen calling with a tax question to vote to re-elect President Obama. That case was referred to the Merit Systems Protection Board. A tax advisory specialist in Kentucky was suspended for 14 days for telling a taxpayer Republicans would take women back 40 years. Employees in Dallas wore Obama campaign buttons and clothing to work and had pro-Obama screensavers visible on monitors. They were given a group warning.
  • The Federal Energy Regulator Commission is not keeping critical data on the nation’s electric grid under wraps. The Energy Department Inspector General says the commission lacks proper control over information that could pose national security threats. Both the commission and the Senate asked the IG to investigate after the Wall Street Journal reported on vulnerabilities in the grid. The newspaper revealed a secret federal analysis. It showed a terrorist strike on just nine transmission substations could cause power outages across the country. The Senate holds a hearing today on FERC’s security policies.
  • Armed with code, military cadets are competing for bragging rights in a cyber competition at the National Security Agency. The annual Cyber Defense Exercise determines which of the five service academies can create computer networks that can withstand threats from the pros. The exercise fits the military’s broader strategy of building its cyber capabilities. It’s also a high-tech game of capture-the-flag. The NSA team attempts to capture tokens embedded in the academies’ networks. The school that does the best job fending off the attacks is declared the winner. The Air Force won last year.
  • As they promised, leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee voted to refer former IRS official Lois Lerner to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. Lois Lerner ran the IRS Tax Exempt Division. She resigned when it came to light that conservative groups had their applications delayed or subject to extra information requirements. Committee Chairman Dave Camp says Lerner illegally targeted Crossroads GPS, a group tied to GOP strategist Karl Rove. Committee Democrats say the Justice Department is already investigating the affair.
  • Medicare made millionaires out of a small group of doctors in 2012. A politically-connected Florida ophthalmologist got nearly $21 million in reimbursements. The data comes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It released information on more than 880,000 health care providers. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says the data will help consumers, researchers and policymakers understand how physicians practice medicine. The American Medical Association says the data dump will do more harm than good.