Federal City Digest

Federal City Digest

(By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
Monday, February 2, 2009

The Return of the Fed Page

L'état, c'est moi, Louis XIV reputedly said. But here in Washington, the state is just us, trudging through sleet on foot, getting jostled on the MARC, cursing congestion on I-66 on the daily commute into the gleaming boxes of the federal city.

D.C. has always had the reputation for being all about power, but in truth it's also the kind of place where conversations over a beer are as likely to center excitedly on the minutiae of trade pacts and how we're ever going to fix Medicare Part B as who's up and who's down. What yokes its disparate denizens -- wonks, lawyers and accidental bureaucrats alike -- together is the federal government: our nation's largest employer, and the one from which an uneasy world now hopes for aid.

And so: Federal City Digest, a daily look at the goings-on in this city within a city and its many internal fiefdoms. Tell us your stories, your troubles, your triumphs -- and how the quiet drama of numbers and memos in your corner of the District is helping to shape the nation. And say a welcome-back to the newspaper version of the Fed Page. Write to us at federalcity@washpost.com.

Women and Children First

Between the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Senate's expansion of children's health insurance, women and children have been at the forefront of the new administration's legislative agenda. Now, our colleague Steve Vogel reports, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), above, is renewing an effort to give federal workers the same parental leave benefits as many in the private sector. On Friday, Webb reintroduced a bill to give the 2.7 million federal employees four weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. An identical bill last year was passed by the House but did not come up for a vote in the Senate; Webb's office is "hopeful" about round two. [Read more about this at http://washingtonpost.com/fedpage.]

No Gmail for You

It's not just the campaign-trail techies now in the West Wing who are affected by the White House proscription on outside e-mail accounts, instant messaging and Facebook, we hear. Some of the people working in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building -- which houses the policy shops and folks who've come in from D.C. consulting companies, think tanks and the private sector -- report that they're also barred.

What to Watch

· Who would have predicted that Eric Holder's nomination to be attorney general would be among the less controversial of President Obama's Cabinet appointments? But with the flap over Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's back taxes setting the stage for the growing brouhaha over Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle's six-figure income tax problem, Holder's confirmation process has had comparatively smooth sailing. At 3:15 p.m. today, the full Senate is scheduled to kick off a debate of Holder's nomination; it's expected to last three hours and end in a roll-call vote -- and confirmation.

· Speaking of Daschle, the Senate Finance Committee gets its grill on today with a closed-door meeting with the former Senate majority leader on his tax situation [Story, Page A2].

· Looking beyond the stimulus battle, health-care policy wonks gather here at AcademyHealth's annual National Health Policy Conference at the JW Marriott. At 9 a.m., Jeanne Lambrew, deputy director of the White House Office of Health Reform, outlines President Obama's health policy priorities for the year ahead.

· Education administrators will be among the first federal government workers to meet the new first lady face to face today at 1 p.m., when Michelle Obama visits the Education Department, along with Secretary Arne Duncan, above, and delivers brief remarks. The Obamas are taking a strong interest in the District's troubled school system.

-- Garance Franke-Ruta

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