Federal Eye
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 01/02/2012

What you missed over the holidays

Those cracks in the Washington Monument? They’ll cost at least $15 million to fix, according to estimates released over the holidays. (Manuel Balce Ceneta - AP)
Whether on purpose or by coincidence, the White House and federal agencies released several notable nuggets of news over the holidays when most reporters and were out of town or preoccupied with college football bowl games and the beginnings of the presidential campaign.

Eye Opener

Some might call it the holiday edition of “Take Out the Trash Day” — as described in a classic “West Wing” episode — when the White House and federal agencies release potentially embarrassing or politically tricky policy decisions and personnel changes on a day when reporters and the general public are less likely to notice or care. (The EPA is most guilty of the practice, according to colleague Emily Heil.)

Either way, The Federal Eye kept tabs over the holidays and anything of import released between Dec. 21 and Dec. 31 earns a mention in our first-ever annual review of “The Holiday News Dump.”

Here’s our look back in chronological order:

1.) Wednesday, Dec. 21: Federal Salaries Officially Frozen for a Second Year: Late on a Wednesday afternoon, as many began leaving town, the Obama administration officially sanctioned the second year of a two-year pay freeze for federal employees by releasing the 2012 Salary Tables and Related Information.

2.) Thursday, Dec. 22: List of Highest-Paid Federal Employees Released: The folks at Government Executive magazine discovered a new database that ranks the top salaries earned by career federal employees. Top salaries range from between $216,345 and $350,000, with most of the best-paid folks employed by the National Institutes of Health. The top earner is Dr. Electron Kebebew, an NIH medical officer well regarded in the field of cancer research. (Awesome name, by the way.)

3.) Thursday, Dec. 22: Washington Monument Earthquake Repairs to Cost $15 Million: The National Park Service plans to pay for the cracking and chipping with $7.5 million in federal funding and another $7.5 million raised by the Trust for the National Mall.

4.) Thursday, Dec. 22: Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Resigns: Alan D. Bersin failed to earn a Senate confirmation vote, so his recess appointment expired. Deputy Commissioner David V. Aguilar will serve as acting commissioner.

5.) Friday, Dec. 23: GAO Releases its Consolidated Financial Report: The nation’s top watchdog said it once again couldn’t render an opinion on the government’s overall financial condition thanks to incomplete data. The departments of Defense and Homeland Security are withholding the most relevant information, according to the report. (For more, read Bryan R. Lawrence’s brilliant summation of the situation as published in The Post last week.)

6.) Friday, Dec. 23: New Stimulus Watchdog Named: The White House tapped Education Department Inspector General Kathleen S. Tighe to serve as the new economic stimulus watchdog as chair of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (RATB). She replaces Earl Devaney, who retired last week.

(Mark Wilson - GETTY IMAGES)
7.) Friday, Dec. 23: Postal Regulatory Commission Pans Post Office Closings: How’s this for coal in the stockings? Two days before Christmas, the nation’s postal regulators poured cold water on plans to close up to 3,600 post offices and processing facilities, saying the U.S. Postal Service relied on questionable data to make the decisions on which sites to close.

8.) Tuesday, Dec. 27: President Obama Nominates Two to the Fed: He tapped Democrat Jeremy Stein and Republican Jay Powell to serve on the Federal Reserve, as he seeks to break a political logjam that has prevented the confirmation of several nominees for economic policy and financial regulation positions.

9.) Thursday, Dec. 29: The U.S. Sells Military Aircraft to Saudi Arabia: The White House claims that the deal, valued at $29.4 billion, will support more than 50,000 jobs. But the announcement also was announced during a week of increased tensions with Iran. Hmm...

10.) Thursday, Dec. 29: Inmates Register as Tax Preparers: A total of 331 inmates were serving time when they earned active or provisional tax preparer tax identification numbers from the IRS, according to an audit by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Forty-three of the inmates were serving life sentences.

Did we miss any holiday news dumps? Let us know by e-mail or in the comments section below.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Further reading:

Roberts defends Supreme Court colleagues on recusal issue

Dave Barry’s Year in Review: The 2011 Festival of Sleaze

For more, visit PostPolitics and The Fed Page.

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 01/02/2012

Categories:  Eye Opener, Administration, Revolving Door, Postal Service

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