Thursday morning federal headlines - April 18, 2013

Thursday - 4/18/2013, 8:59am 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.

  • President Barack Obama's choice to lead the Office of Management and Budget is gliding toward Senate confirmation. Both the Budget and Governmental Affairs committees approved Sylvia Mathews Burwell on unanimous voice votes. Sen. Jess Sessions (R-Ala.) called Burwell an able and delightful person. She worked for the Clinton White House and was until recently president of the Wal-Mart Foundation. If confirmed, Burwell will take over from acting OMB Director Jeffrey Zients. He's filling in for Jacob Lew, who become Treasury secretary. (Reuters)

  • Federal investigators quickly identified and arrested a suspect in the mailings of poisoned letters to government officials. Paul Kenneth Curtis of Corinth, Miss., is an Elvis impersonator said to harbor a theory the government is trafficking in human body parts. Letters suspected of being contaminated with ricin were mailed to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and to President Obama. They were intercepted at Postal Service processing centers. WTOP news reports, the American Postal Workers Union says officials were late in notifying them about the threat. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told a House hearing, normal screening procedures protect postal workers. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) closed his Saginaw, Mich., office after a suspicious letter arrived there. (WTOP/Federal News Radio)

  • Congress is taking judges and the General Services Administration to task for proposals to build more federal courthouses. A new Government Accountability Office report questions 10 out of 12 planned construction projects. Auditors say there should be a moratorium until the judiciary puts the plans through a rigorous evaluation process. The judiciary says the construction will cost $1 billion. GAO said that's not true. With future rent, the cost will be at least three times that amount. House Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) suggests fancy courthouses aren't necessary. He says administering justice could be done in a warehouse with two milk crates and a two-by-four. (GAO)

  • The furlough season has begun. Gov Exec reports that some Labor Department employees are taking days off this week without pay. Staff at the EPA and the Office of Management and Budget are slated to begin furloughs Monday. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have introduced a bill that would protect public safety and law enforcement workers from furloughs. The bill would let agency leaders move money around in their budgets so that the so-called "essential employees" would not have to take days off from work without pay. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo) says essential employees includes food inspectors, control-tower operators and border guards. (Gov Exec/Blunt)

  • Did you ever dream of writing a novel some day? When former General Services Administration head Martha Johnson lost her job last year, she put pen to paper. Johnson has self-published a book. It's about homophobia and the Presbyterian church in rural Indiana in the 1990s. It's called "In our midst." Johnson has also published a book on youth worship. She resigned from GSA last year after the Las Vegas conference scandal. (Martha Johnson)

  • Two dozen current and former IRS employees have been charged with stealing government benefits and property. Federal prosecutors in Memphis say 13 of them received more than $250,000 in benefits illegally. Benefits included unemployment payments, food stamps and housing vouchers. Prosecutors said they lied about their employment status. If convicted, they face five years in prison. The other 11 were indicted for theft of government property. They could face longer sentences. (Federal News Radio)