Wednesday federal headlines – April 30, 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.

  • Two days since returning, Congress is buckling down to try and get its work done. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers is using a tried and true method. He’s scheduling the less controversial funding bills for votes first. Today, members will likely pass a $71 billion Veterans Affairs and military construction bill. Next, they’ll vote on freezing Congress’ own budget and denying themselves a cost of living pay increase. Rogers has also brought forth easy-to-pass bills covering NASA, Commerce and Justice. Last year’s agreement on a $1 trillion top line is easing negotiations a bit this year. But debates on EPA and Health and Human Services appropriations still will be contentious. (Associated Press)
  • A House panel is balking at the Pentagon’s plan to cut military benefits. Chairman Buck McKeon says the House Armed Services Committee rejects proposals that would increase military families’ out-of-pocket costs. Off the table are cuts in subsidies to military commissaries, housing allowances and changes in the health care program. Pentagon leaders say the cuts would free money to preserve the military’s readiness and warfighting ability. The committee is set to approve legislation today, one of the first steps in crafting a Defense authorization bill. (Associated Press)
  • New federal employees could owe Uncle Sam as much as $1,300 in back retirement contributions. A new law requires feds hired in 2014 to pay 4.4 percent of their salaries towards retirement. That’s 1.3 percent higher than feds hired last year and substantially more than those hired earlier. The government has failed to collect the higher fees because it’s still updating its software programs to reflect the changes. Those won’t happen until summer. The American Federation of Government Employees is asking the Office of Management and Budget to forgive the back payments. (American Federation of Government Employees)
  • Watch your email inbox. The 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey is on the way. Federal employees will see the survey arrive over the next two weeks. The Office of Personnel Management says recipients will have until early June to fill out the survey. Each year, the survey gauges employee job satisfaction and other measures of workforce health. OPM Director Katherine Archuleta says participation is more important than ever. She cites the shutdown and furloughs that hit federal agencies over the past year. (Office of Personnel Management)
  • A hacker pleads guilty to charges he threatened an FBI agent who was investigating him. Barret Lancaster Brown was a self-appointed spokesman for the shadowy group Anonymous. He also pleads guilty in Dallas to sharing stolen data and obstructing execution of a search warrant. His lawyer managed to get the Justice Department to drop nearly a dozen other charges. Still, Brown faces up to eight and a half years in prison when he’s sentenced in August. Brown was arrested two years ago after posting YouTube videos and tweets threatening to ruin the agent’s life and those of his children. (Associated Press)
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tells the services to review their hairstyle policies amid complaints that the requirements are racially biased. The services will pay special attention to African-American female soldiers’ needs. The Army earlier this month banned most twists, dreadlocks and large cornrows, styles most popular among black women. Sixteen female members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to Hagel. They said the changes discriminated against soldiers who are women of color. (Associated Press)