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Eye Opener: Jan. 9, 2008

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Friday! Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) faces her confirmation hearings today, the second Obama pick to face a Senate panel. Grist.org notes that Solis will appear before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, headed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who "presented Solis with the 'Profile in Courage' award in 2000."

"As Labor Secretary, Solis would in fact be in charge of implementing the Green Jobs Act she fought to 'smuggle through' a hostile Congress and Bush administration in 2007, said green jobs guru and best-selling author Van Jones. The act authorized $125 million annually to train 30,000 workers in environment-friendly jobs such as installing solar panels or weatherizing homes. But it went unfunded in 2008, due to opposition from manufacturers and other industry groups angered by its mandate to include organized labor."

The Post's Alec MacGillis previews the Solis hearings by noting that the labor movement's "prospects are already being shadowed by controversies besetting the Service Employees International Union, the country's fastest-growing union and one that has gone from being seen as a savior of the movement to a favored target of its opponents.

Good news from the Federal workforce: "Federal workers like their jobs," reports The Post's Federal Diarist Joe Davidson, who writes about the results of the 2008 Federal Human Capital Survey the Office of Personnel Management.

Ninety-one percent of the 210,000 federal workers that participated "said the work they do is important, and 84 percent said they like what they do."

But not everything was rosy: While federal employees "were happier with health insurance benefits, access to resources and diversity efforts...satisfaction fell in other areas including work-life balance," reports GovExec.com. "Performance management was another category in which the results of the 2008 Federal Human Capital Survey indicated weaknesses."

The top 10 agencies for job satisfaction are: Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Management and Budget, National Science Foundation, NASA, State Department, Agency for International Development, Social Security Administration, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Justice Department.

Data from this latest OPM report will help determine the 2008 Best Places to Work -- a popular measure of Federal worker satisfaction published by the Partnership for Public Service.

In other news...

Eric Holder Pushed for Clemency: The attorney general nominee "repeatedly pushed some of his subordinates at the Clinton Justice Department to drop their opposition to a controversial 1999 grant of clemency to 16 members of two violent Puerto Rican nationalist organizations, according to interviews and documents," reports today's LA Times. "Details of the role played by Holder, who was deputy attorney general at the time, had not been publicly known until now. The new details are of particular interest because Republican senators have vowed to revisit Holder's role during his confirmation hearings next week."

Daschle's Senate Confirmation: Senators challenged Obama's pick for HHS secretary to improve employee morale. "'I can tell you right now, [employees] want to work and they want to work for change. But what they’re so frustrated about is the type of leadership that they haven’t got,' said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)" reports the Federal Times. "'So when you look at the agencies, and so often we blame the so-called bureaucrats, you have to look at the political leadership that is there and the kind of leadership they can now expect.'
Daschle concurred, citing information from employees who say they felt political pressures were compromising their ability to do their jobs." But The New York Times opines that "Unfortunately, the hearing did not tell us much at all about how the incoming Obama administration intends to pay for its emerging health care programs or how, for all of his smoothness at the hearing, Mr. Daschle will deal with the very real and very big differences his team has with Republicans on this and other vital issues."

'Brownie' Escapes The Fire (Again?): The Eye reported yesterday that former FEMA administrator Michael Brown was among the roughly 11,000 residents of Boulder, Colo. who had to evacuate as wildfires burned more than 1,000 acres. "It was interesting because when he said there was a fire, you know, I couldn’t smell the smoke or see it, because the [wind was] just pushing the smoke due east. I couldn’t see the fire until I got down to Highway 36. And when I saw it I was just astonished at just how large it was. So I sat and watched it for about two hours." Yeah...

The Census is Hiring!: The Census Bureau, in preparation of the 2010 Census, is hiring for the national head count, in all sorts of places. The Berkshire Eagle (the hometown paper of The Eye's extended family) reports the Census will hire "roughly 20 full-time, managerial slots and hundreds of part-time positions" in Western and Central Massachusetts.

Don't forget to follow The Eye on Twitter, submit your question to our "Ask Your Government" Google Moderator series and send your news tips, questions, comments and events listings to federaleye@washingtonpost.com.

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 9, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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