Friday Morning Federal Newscast - December 17th

Friday - 12/17/2010, 9:35am EST

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Amy Morris 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.

  • Senate Democrats have abandoned a $1.1 trillion omnibus bill. It would have funded federal agencies through fiscal 2011. But nine Republicans who had pledged support for the bill, withdrew yesterday. That prompted majority leader Harry Reid to give up on it. Opposition centered on the bill's 6,000 earmarks, and minority leader Mitch McConnell objected to the rushed approach. To avoid a weekend government shutdown, the Senate and House must agree to a third continuing resolution before midnight Saturday.

  • The Senate passed a bill Thursday to increase transparency and cost-savings. The Government Performance and Results Modernization Act would require each agency to designate a Chief Operating Officer and a Performance Improvement Officer. Agencies would have to put performance data online. Also clearing the Senate is a bill to increase oversight of government acquisitions. The Federal Acquisitions Improvement Act would ensure more consistent acquisition workforce training.

  • The Postal Service and the American Postal Workers Union agreed to keep negotiating a new contract. The current agreement expired last month, and has been extended twice. The two sides agreed to keep extending it day-by-day. GovExec reports, both sides also agreed to suspend employee reassignments based on workload requirements until a new agreement is reached. USPS is working on several avenues to reduce its multi-billion-dollar losses.

  • President Obama has named Washington lawyer Carolyn Lerner to head the Office of Special Counsel. Lerner is a partner at the law firm Heller, Huron, Chert-kof, Lerner, Simon and Salzman. It specializes in civil rights law. If confirmed, Lerner would fill a job vacant since 2008, when Special Counsel Scott Bloch resigned. Bloch's stormy tenure included an attempt to remove as a prohibited practice, discrimination based on sexual orientation. Bloch was also accused of retaliating against whistleblowers.

  • Xe Services, formerly called Blackwater Worldwide, is about to be sold. The New York Times reports founder Eric D. Prince has agreed to sell the company to a group of Los Angeles investors. Prince is said to have close ties to the group. Xe provides protection to American officials overseas, often using former armed services members. It became controversial in 2007 after a gun battle in Bagdad killed 17 Iraqi citizens. The sale comes after the State Department threatened to stop awarding contracts to Xe Services as long as Prince owns it.

  • Earlier this month, the Securities and Exchange Commission said it had reported 600,000 square feet of excess space at Constitution Center to GSA. Today, the General Services Administration says it hasn't spoken to the SEC. Spokesman Mike McGill tells the Washington Business Journal that the SEC has not approached them to report the extra real estate. But the SEC maintains that it did have the conversation back in November, but it was only a consult. No leases were transferred. So the bottom line, according to the story in the Washington Business Journal: the SEC reported the space. The GSA won't release it for the agency. The SEC will have to figure out what to do with it.

  • A federal "do not board" list hasn't always stopped travelers with serious, infectious diseases from taking flights. The list is like the "no fly" list, except it is designed to stop sick travelers from boarding flights and spreading their illness. USA Today reports that from January 2009 until this past August, nine infectious people on the list tried to board flights. The list stopped six of them. Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say no one was sickened by the three travelers. A Transportation Security Administration spokesman says the loopholes that allowed them to travel have been fixed. The CDC provided the data to Republican staff on the House Energy and Commerce committee.

More news links

Whistleblower protection bill hits sudden stop in Congress (WashingtonPost)

Officials: CIA gave waterboarders $5M legal shield

IRS employee convicted of wiretapping for snooping on boss's Outlook (geek.com)

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