Chat With The Eye: Michael Steele; Michigan militia arrests; federal retirees and the fate of the U.S. Postal Service
Highlights of Tuesday's Post Politics Hour, which included several queries about the RNC's questionable spending, the health-care reform fallout, future of the U.S. Postal Service and concerns for some federal retirees:
Washington, D.C.: In your opinion, have the Democrats' prospects for November brightened in the last week due to the success of health care reform, the arms control treaty with Russia, and the impending success of financial regulatory reform?
Ed O'Keefe: In my opinion, it's way too early to be forecasting potential wins and losses in November. Did Democrats have a good week last week? Are they faring well so far this week? Yes. Does that mean they'll win in November? Not necessarily.
We have a little more than eight months to go before Americans vote, folks. It's just like a March Madness game with :25 left on the clock: Anything can happen.
Washington DC: Did I understand the recent Federal Page article correctly - that Federal retirees will lose their current health insurance coverage under the new law?
Ed O'Keefe: My read of the esteemed Joe Davidson's column suggests the jury is still out on whether retirees in the FEHBP for at least five years will be able to take it into retirement.
Don't jump to conclusions yet, wait to see what the Office of Personnel Management concludes.
Philadelphia, Pa: Do you remember the Homeland Security report that was issued a while back that warned of right wing extremism? The one that Republicans freaked out over and demanded an apology from [Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano.
Well, the Hutaree arrests are what that report was referring to, among others. The incidences and threats of right wing groups are extremely raised since the election of Obama and that is just a fact. Sorry, Republicans, if the facts are against you.
Ed O'Keefe: I wouldn't agree with some of what you said in your "question," but yes, the recent militia arrests are exactly what the Homeland Security report on right-wing extremists was warning about.
Among other things, the report stated that: "The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks."
Have there been "lone wolf" attacks since? Yes, the plane crash at IRS offices is one example, as was the recent shooting at the Pentagon. Would those have happened with or without the report? Probably. Were they inspired by what the report was suggesting? Not necessarily.
And let's remember what Napolitano said at the time in response to the report: "...we monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States. We don't have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group; we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown, and regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence."
Jacksonville, FL: So just what kind of "meal" can one buy at a lesbian bondage strip club?
And isn't there a Denny's or Applebee's or something similar in West Hollywood?
Ed O'Keefe: Um... having never visited a lesbian bondage strip club, I wouldn't know.
Washington, DC: Ed - What is the average salary and benefits package for a US Postal worker? There's another option not being discussed that's far more sensible that cutting Saturday delivery: scaling back overly-generous employee salaries and benefits. Of course, the union will never allow it.
Ed O'Keefe: Well, the union might have to allow it. The four big postal unions head to the negotiating table in the coming months, and Postmaster General John E. Potter has made clear he expects them to make concessions.
I'm not sure of the average figure, but I know that postal workers receive a much more generous benefits package than federal employees. (Remember -- the Postal Service is a quasi-corporation/quasi-agency.)
Potter has essentially said that workers should expect to have to shoulder more of their own financial load in the future. That seems like a fair concession if they expect the agency to stay afloat.
Of course, it wouldn't hurt if Potter also found ways to trim the fat at the management level...
Dale City, VA: How many appointees are awaiting confirmation and what is the average time between selection and confirmation? Are hearings held for every candidate?
Ed O'Keefe: This depends on how you track the fate of nominees.
The White House said Saturday that 217 of Obama's nominees still await Senate confirmation. But The Post's Head Count nominee tracker says he's got about 120 positions to go. The Post's tracking does not include nominees for U.S. attorneys, federal judges, ambassadors and U.S. marshals -- but the White House does.
Hearings aren't necessarily held for every nominee -- certainly not for every ambassador or marshal nominee.
Read the full chat here and leave your thoughts in the comments section below
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