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News briefs: Week of Aug. 5

Aug. 4, 2013 - 11:21AM   |  
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Obama to nominate new IRS commissioner

President Obama said last week that he intends to nominate John Koskinen to serve as Internal Revenue Service commissioner.

If confirmed by the Senate, Koskinen would replace Daniel Werfel, a longtime budget adviser, who has led the troubled agency on an acting basis since May.

Werfel replaced Steven Miller, who was ousted by Obama in the aftermath of revelations that the agency targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny.

“John is an expert at turning around institutions in need of reform,” Obama said in a statement. “With decades of experience, in both the private and public sectors, John knows how to lead in difficult times, whether that means ensuring new management or implementing new checks and balances.”

Koskinen worked at the government-controlled mortgage funding group Freddie Mac as a non-executive chairman after the organization came under fire in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

He also served in the Clinton administration, heading the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion, and as deputy director for management of the Office of Management and Budget from 1994 to 1997, a period that included several government shutdowns.

MSPB delays processing of furlough appeals

The Merit Systems Protection Board is delaying the processing of thousands of furlough-related appeals from Defense Department employees, the agency said in a message posted on its website last week.

Because of the unprecedented volume of cases, the board is delaying processing “until we have a better understanding of the claims being raised,” the message said.

As of last week, the board, which typically handles about 7,000 cases per year, had received more than 19,000 for this fiscal year, the bulk of them furlough-related.

The message asked appellants to refrain from contacting regional and field offices until they get notification that processing on their appeals has begun, the message said.

OMB chief: Divided GOP imperils budget deal

The White House budget chief said Thursday that divisions among Republicans are making it harder to negotiate a deal that would ease the impact of automatic budget cuts and avoid a government shutdown this fall.

“A challenge for us and a challenge for them,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said at a breakfast hosted by The Wall Street Journal. “Certainly it is much easier to think about negotiating and having deals when there is a singular represented point of view.”

The disputes among Republicans over spending levels, trying to end funding for the Affordable Care Act and other issues presumably weaken the GOP’s hand in negotiating with the White House but also makes the path ahead harder to chart.

“It reinforces the fact that you do have to do much more outreach and listening to a broader group versus … a one-stop shop, in terms of understanding where pieces and parts are,” Burwell said. “It makes things more complicated.”

The White House wants to reach a budget deal that avoids the automatic sequester spending cuts. But Burwell refused to discuss whether President Obama would veto a continuing resolution to get past the budget deadline of Oct. 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

“Why extensions?” she asked. “Why do you need an extension instead of getting the paper written? Why do we need to kick the can” down the road?

But she reiterated that one “very important principle” for the administration was a refusal to ease Pentagon cuts without also dealing with cuts in domestic programs.

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