Friday morning federal headlines - June 22, 2012

Friday - 6/22/2012, 8:02am EDT

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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Commerce Secretary John Bryson resigned yesterday. His departure came less than two weeks after he suffered a seizure which led to multiple car accidents in the Los Angeles area. Bryson told the president, he didn't want his health to be a distraction. Bryson is a 68-year-old former California utility executive. He had advised President Obama on energy issues. Obama met with Bryson in the Oval Office to thank him in person. Rebecca Blank is acting Commerce Secretary. (Federal News Radio)

  • The Congressional war of words over the Justice Department notched up. House leaders have joined the debate. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) demanded that the Obama administration give in and turn over documents related to the Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation. He said that's the only way Attorney General Eric Holder can avoid a House vote to hold him in contempt. President Obama has invoked executive privilege in blocking release of the documents. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Republicans are attacking Holder because he is enforcing voting rights laws. (Federal News Radio)

  • National Weather Service leaders begged lawmakers for help yesterday at a House committee hearing. GovExec reported agency officials said they were doing all they could to avoid furloughing 5,000 employees. But they needed Congress' help to reprogram funds as soon as possible. House members indicated they would follow a Senate committee's lead in approving an additional $36 million. But committee members criticized the agency for failing to punish the staff members who moved money between programs without permission and left a funding gap. Officials said they were hiring outside auditors to look at the misconduct. (GovExec)

  • Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said tax increases should be part of any bargain to avoid sequestration. McCain is the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee. His remarks may signal a compromise between members of the two parties. McCain said proposals to close tax loopholes and end things like the ethanol subsidy were a good place to start budget negotiations. He is worried that the automatic budget cuts now scheduled for Jan. 1 would harm the nation's military. A provision in the farm bill just passed by the Senate requires the administration to detail what programs would be affected by sequestration. (Federal News Radio)

  • U.S. diplomats in Pakistan are facing unprecedented levels of harassment. Pakistani officials are spying on them like never before and interfering with their work. That includes delaying their visas, blocking aid shipments, hindering construction projects and denying routine travel requests. The State Department's inspector general said the harrassment was "significantly impairing" department employees and contractors' work. Tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan have been high ever since the military raided Osama Bin Laden's compound and killed him a year ago. Pakistan learned of the raid only afterward. (Federal News Radio)

  • If yesterday's triple digits are any indication, it's going to be a hot, sticky summer. The Office of Personnel Management reminded agency leaders to do all they could to protect employees' health. Director John Berry said that should include making drinking water easily available, allowing eligible employees to work from home when air-quality conditions are lousy and letting others flex their hours so they are not commuting during the most dangerous times of day. Staff can request vacation or comp time too, if they believe the weather is threatening their health. (OPM)

  • The revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street may become closed off for certain foreign companies and governments. They would not be able to hire lawmakers or other high-ranking government officials as lobbyists under legislation heading to the House floor, The Hill reported. The restriction would apply to former cabinet secretaries, ambassadors, senior intelligence officials and other executive-branch members who require Senate confirmation for 10 years after they leave office. The bill seeks to prevent them from helping countries designated as human-rights violators or those who persecute religious minorities. That includes China. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said he was concerned about two Chinese communications firms in particular that he said may be helping China launch cyber spy missions or even attacks on the United States. (The Hill)