New and noteworthy on Capitol Hill: A week in review

A brief look at the latest happenings in Congress this week

By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

  1. Sen. Tester to scrutinize security clearance workforce
  2. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, has reintroduced a bill that aims to scrutinize the security clearance workforce.

    The bill, the “Security Clearance Accountability, Reform, and Enhancement,” or SCARE, Act, would prohibit federal contractors and employees who have compromised the integrity of a background investigation from performing future background investigations.

    The bill also forces the federal government to update its policy determining which positions actually require a security clearance.

    “Our national security is too important to not take the background investigation process seriously. Folks with security clearances have access to our nation’s most sensitive information, and that’s why folks who conduct clearance investigations need to be held to the highest standards,” Tester said in a press release. “Let’s take a fresh look at who needs a security clearance by increasing transparency and improving oversight.”

    Tester first introduced the bill in May 2014 in response to several “serious lapses” in the security clearances of contractor employees — including Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis.

  3. Sen. Vitter pumps the brakes on OPM nomination
  4. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), chairman of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, announced Wednesday that he would block the nomination of Earl Gay, who is under consideration for the job of Deputy Director of the Office of Personnel Management.

    Vitter justified the delay in Gay’s nomination with an objection he has with OPM’s role in an Affordable Care Act exemption. Before the official open enrollment period, OPM made a decision allowing the government to continue making the employer contribution available to the health plans of members of Congress and staff.

    “OPM created the Washington Exemption from Obamacare, and they still haven’t answered questions about how and why,” Vitter said. “Once they answer some specific questions about why they think Congress is entitled to a special exemption from Obamacare, I’ll release the hold.”

  5. Giving VA secretary the power to take back bonuses
  6. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, has sponsored a new bill that would give the secretary of the Veterans Affairs Committee the authority to rescind employees’ bonuses.

    The bill is meant to give the VA secretary a new means of punishing agency employees guilty of workplace misconduct

    H.R. 280 would give affected employees the chance to defend their bonuses during a hearing.


Digging through the new bills: Across-the-board cuts and more

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