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Eye Opener: Paid Parental Leave Considered

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Wednesday! The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scheduled today to consider the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, a measure that would allow federal employees to take up to four weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child.

Yours truly reports today in The Post that "Federal workers already receive 12 weeks of unpaid leave for such an event and can also use their paid sick leave or vacation time during that period.

"The House approved an identical bill during the previous Congress, but the Senate did not take up the measure. Several of the committee's Republican members consider the bill a wasteful government expense amid the national economic slump.

But... "Federal employee unions also argue that while their members can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, many cannot afford to do so. The measure would help establish a stronger work-life balance for federal workers, a stated goal of the Obama administration, they said."

Cabinet & Staff News: Former Clinton spokesman Jake Siewert is preparing for a return to government as a top counselor to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Gates reassures Egypt and Saudi Arabia about Iran. Salazar lauded, warned about DOI's ethics problems. Duncan begins a 15-state listening tour in West Virginia. Former South Carolina schools chief chosen to chair CPSC. Much more on who's in and who's out from The Post's Al Kamen.

Cool Link:, a site devoted to information on environmental and public health threats, relaunched yesterday by OMB Watch.

Today's Big Event: The Partnership for Public Service hosts a luncheon today at noon to honor the 30 finalists for the Service to America Medals. The event will be held in Hart Senate Office Building room 902 with Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan scheduled to speak. ALSO: Phish frontman and Drug Court graduate Trey Anastasio hosts an event marking the 20th anniversary of the Drug Court program tonight from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Dirksen Senate Office Building room 106. The event is sponsored by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP). The group will present 25 lawmakers with awards for their support of the program in the FY'09 budget. More here.

• Obama Budget Puts Security First at The Border: "President Obama will ask Congress for $27 billion for border and transportation security in the next budget year, fulfilling a promise to the Mexican government to battle the southbound flow of illegal weapons and setting the stage for immigration reform by first addressing enforcement," reports Anna Gorman and Peter Nicholas of the LA Times.

New Flu Vaccine Campaign?: "The Obama administration is considering an unprecedented fall vaccination campaign that could entail giving Americans three flu shots -- one to combat annual seasonal influenza and two targeted at the new swine flu virus spreading across the globe," reports The Post's Ceci Connolly and Kimberly Kindy. "If enacted, the multibillion-dollar effort would represent the first time that top federal health officials have asked Americans to get more than one flu vaccine in a year, raising serious challenges concerning production, distribution and the ability to track potentially severe side effects."

Cyber-Command May Help Protect Civilian Networks: "The Pentagon is considering whether to create a new cyber-command that would oversee government efforts to protect the military's computer networks and would also assist in protecting the civilian government networks," reports The Post's Ellen Nakashima.

Ex-Bush Officials Work to Soften Ethics Report: The Post's Carrie Johnson reports that "In recent days, attorneys for the subjects of the ethics probe have encouraged senior Bush administration appointees to write and phone Justice Department officials" involved in the five-year review of memos related to interrogation methods. "Investigators rely in part on e-mail exchanges between Justice Department lawyers and lawyers at the CIA who sought advice about the legality of interrogation practices that have since been abandoned by the Obama administration."

Torture Memos May Lead to Disbarment:Meanwhile NPR's Ari Shapiro reports that the DOJ report "will refer people to bar associations for possible disciplinary action. Criminal prosecution, however, seems increasingly unlikely."

NASA's Program for Future Space Flight to Be Reviewed: "In a major turnaround, the Obama administration intends this week to order a review of the spacecraft program that NASA had hoped would replace the space shuttle," report Mark K. Matthews and Robert Block of the Orlando Sentinel. "According to administration officials and industry insiders, the review would examine whether the Ares 1 rocket and Orion capsule are the best option to send astronauts into orbit by 2015. The review of the so-called Constellation program could be finished by fall."

FCC to Hold National Digital-TV Test Before Switch: On May 21, according to Amy Schatz of the Wall Street Journal.

SEC Sues Over Losses Connected to Lehman Collapse: "Last September, Lehman's collapse caused the $62 billion Reserve Primary Fund, which loaned money to the investment bank, to 'break the buck,' meaning that the value of assets fell below the level needed to repay investors for each dollar put into the fund," reports The Post's Zachary Goldfarb.

DOD IG Says Report Was Flawed: "In a highly unusual reversal, the Defense Department’s inspector general’s office has withdrawn a report it issued in January exonerating a Pentagon public relations program that made extensive use of retired officers who worked as military analysts for television and radio networks," reports David Barstow of the NYT.

Mullen Says DOD Budget Strikes Right Balance: "The detailed budget, which is expected to be sent to Capitol Hill this week with the rest of the Obama administration's fiscal 2010 spending plan, has 'a level of quality, comprehensiveness and [is] strategically driven, unlike any of the ones I have worked on before,' Mullen told a luncheon audience at the Navy League's annual symposium at the National Harbor convention center," according to CongressDaily.

KBR Contract Accounts for ‘Vast Majority’ of Contract Fraud Cases: "Pentagon auditors have referred to criminal investigators 32 cases of suspected contract fraud occurring in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait since 2003, a senior Defense contract official said Monday. And the 'vast majority' of those cases involve the Army’s multibillion-dollar logistics contract — known as LOGCAP — with KBR," reports Elise Castelli of Federal Times.

Obama Seeks Global Health Plan Broader Than Bush’s AIDS Effort: "Mr. Bush made combating global AIDS a centerpiece of his foreign agenda. The program he created — the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar — is regarded as one of his most significant achievements," reports the NYT's Sheryl Gay Stolberg. "But the plan Mr. Obama outlined Tuesday envisions a more far-reaching approach to global health that would focus not only on AIDS, but also on tropical diseases and other treatable and preventable illnesses that kill millions, many of them children, each year."

Women Stuck on Lower Rungs, Group Says: "The organization Federally Employed Women welcomed recent news that Uncle Sam now pays women just seven cents on the dollar less than men, after all factors but some unexplained ones are considered," writes The Post's Joe Davidson. "What FEW isn't happy about is that 'women in the federal workforce have not been able to move up the ladder as quickly as men due to many reasons including lack of mentoring, lack of training, and lack of opportunity.'"

Unions Woo Airport Screeners: Following up on a report The Eye did in December, Stephen Losey of the Federal Times reports that "The American Federation of Government Employees and National Treasury Employees Union are trying to sign up as many TSA employees and charter as many local chapters as possible before the employees receive collective bargaining rights. Once employees can be unionized, they are expected to hold an election to decide which union will represent them."

By Ed O'Keefe  | May 6, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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If this passes, I want 12 weeks for each of my three children born in 1975, 1980 and 1983. I used all my leave and LWOP. I think this should be retroactive so that all of us can have the same privileges as these spoiled brats of today receive. Good grief, must we wipe their butts for them too? What more can we do for today's federal workers?

Posted by: Jimmie54 | May 6, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Ed, your article noted that Feds can use annual and sick leave, but did not note that there is a cap on how much sick leave can be used (four weeks, i think).

I have 13 weeks of sick leave accrued. If I have a child I can only use 4 of those weeks, and the other 8 weeks of FMLA leave would have to be either annual leave or unpaid.

Personally, I don't need a new leave entitlement -- just take the shackles off of sick leave use. Seems a more politically palatable solution.

Posted by: TheBoreaucrat | May 6, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

It's always easy to sit in judgment Jimmie. I'm sure you're enjoying a federal pension that today's workers never will...and I'm happy to be paying into it for you.

Posted by: af07 | May 6, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I'm a federal employee, and I'm a registered Democrat. I am actually insulted by this proposal. All employees in the government and elsewhere have to plan their future leave use based on life events, and having a child simply should not become a "privileged" event entitled to a financial reward.

As an employee who has no children or plans for them, I don't appreciate the idea that my employer would say that I am on lesser footing with respect to my leave.

If a federal employee wants to have a child, and wants to get paid for any or all of their maternity/paternity leave, then they had best save up their sick leave and annual leave for a couple of years to cover it. Every other employee has to make do with a fairly generous leave benefit for any other purpose. Parents to be shouldn't get any benefits on this count. Having a child is optional, while often serious medical care is not.

I hope this bill dies.

Posted by: sf2979 | May 6, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

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