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Democratic party leaders in the House have asked that the investigation into fake comments on Federal Communications Commission rulemaking be expanded to other agencies. Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray requesting an investigation into comment submissions to four agencies, specifically: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Labor Department. The Democrats said an investigation into potential fraudulent comments is necessary to “restore public trust in the federal rulemaking process.” (House Energy/Commerce Committee)
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said he would like to see more congressional offices publish federal wastebooks. Lankford said every congressional office in the House and Senate should do their own annual deep-dive into federal fraud, waste and abuse. Lankford also urged the Senate to pass his Taxpayers Right to Know Act, which would require the Office of Management and Budget to post every federal program, by agency, on its website. (Federal News Radio)
The Senate has confirmed Alex Azar as the second Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary in the Trump administration. Azar served as the deputy HHS secretary under the George W. Bush administration and ran a pharmaceutical drug company. Azar said his top priorities at HHS are to curb the cost of prescription drugs, make health insurance more affordable, to reform Medicare and to confront the opioid addiction epidemic. His predecessor, Tom Price, stepped down last fall over his use of private charter flights for official travel. (Federal News Radio)
The White House said President Donald Trump will send his fiscal 2019 budget request to Congress on Feb. 12. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) confirmed the proposal will be about a week later than expected. A spokeswoman said because the administration was preparing for and then implementing the recent lapse in appropriations, both OMB and agency staff lost several work days during an especially critical part of the budget production process.
The Defense Department (DoD) is reportedly involved in an internal dispute over how much paternity leave should be offered to new dads. Congress has already given DoD discretion to offer up to three weeks, and the Navy is advocating for that amount. But the military’s top enlisted official told the Military Times newspaper yesterday that the Pentagon thinks two weeks is “about right,” while other military services have said they want the allowance to be as little as seven days. (Federal News Radio)
Congress ordered the DoD to conduct a wholesale review of the law that governs military officers’ careers. Personnel chiefs from the military services told Congress yesterday that, in general, the law known as DOPMA has served the military well since it was passed in 1980. They said Congress should retain core elements like the up-or-out approach to officer promotion, but that the law does need minor changes. In particular, officials want more authority to pay officers based on their performance and more authorities to commission officers directly from the private sector. (Federal News Radio)
The Department of Veterans Affairs said it will not hire an outside contractor to implement the same identity management system as the Defense Department for its electronic health record. VA announced its decision to enter into an interagency agreement with DoD in a notice on FedBizOpps.gov — the government’s procurement website. VA initially issued a request for information seeking a contractor to provide a host of develop, test and integration services. Instead, VA will rely on DoD to modify the DoD-owned Patient Discovery Web Service. DoD will create a single identity system that will support joint patient identity management across both VA and DoD. (FedBizOpps)