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Senate panel approves Lew nomination

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The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 9-0 this morning to confirm Jacob “Jack” Lew as the next director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Lew’s nomination, announced by President Obama in July, must also win approval from the Senate Budget Committee before going to the full Senate.  As of this morning, the budget committee had not scheduled a vote, according to its web site.

If confirmed, Lew, 55, would replace Peter Orszag, who resigned this summer. OMB Deputy Director Jeffrey Zients is meanwhile serving as acting director.

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Zeints to helm OMB until Lew confirmed

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Zeints

Zeints

Politico is reporting that federal chief performance officer Jeffrey Zeints will be the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget until Peter Orszag’s replacement, Jack Lew, is confirmed by the Senate.

Rob Nabors, a former Orszag deputy who has been serving as senior adviser to President Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, will return to OMB as acting deputy directo, Politico reports.

When Lew is able to take over, he’ll face a tough road trying to advance the administration’s budget-cutting efforts, as my colleague Steve Losey reported recently.


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Orszag gets unwanted musical tribute

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Peter Orszag was serenaded this morning following his final public speech as Office of Management and Budget chief, but the a cappella number was anything but a love song.

“Peter Orszag and Larry Summers–they’re fascist pigs, they’re fascist pigs,”  intoned a member of the Brookings Institution audience to the tune of “Funiculi, Funicula.”

Despite efforts to shush him, the man–who had first identified himself as a supporter of perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche–persevered to the end (“Obama’s health care plan is Hitler approved”) before being eased out an auditorium exit.

Orszag had actually given the man the opening by calling on him to ask a question. “I clearly chose the wrong person,” he said afterward.

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Orszag’s farewell speech set for Wednesday

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Orszag

Orszag

Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag will appear at the Brookings Institution Wednesday, where he’ll give his last public speech before departing the government. The White House said he will speak about the Obama administration’s economic and fiscal accomplishments and its future plans, as well as take questions from the audience.

But if Orszag really wants to grab the crowd — and we all know how much of a charmer he can be — his speech will go something like this:

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Obama taps Jacob Lew to head OMB

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President Obama has just selected Jacob Lew to replace Peter Orszag as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. More to come.

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DHS gets federal cybersecurity portfolio

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The Office of Management and Budget has officially tabbed the Homeland Security Department to oversee cybersecurity in the executive branch, as OMB indicated would be the case in April.

A memo this week from OMB Director Peter Orszag and federal cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt gives DHS responsibility for:

• overseeing the government-wide and agency-specific implementation of and reporting on cybersecurity policies and guidance;
• overseeing and assisting government-wide and agency-specific efforts to provide adequate, risk-based and cost-effective cybersecurity;
• overseeing the agencies’ compliance with FISMA and developing analyses for OMB to assist in the development of the FISMA annual report;
• overseeing the agencies’ cybersecurity operations and incident response and providing appropriate assistance; and
• annually reviewing the agencies’ cybersecurity programs.

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They always come in threes…

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kumarFirst Peter Orszag. Then Gen. Stanley McChrystal. And CNN just reported that Kal Penn, better known as Kumar, has officially left the White House. It’s hard to tell which will be the most devastating loss to the administration.

Seriously, though, the Washington Post’s Al Kamen has a roundup of potential Orszag replacements here, including current Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry. But whoever ends up replacing Orszag will face the thankless task of reducing the nation’s deficit, as Slate’s Christopher Beam details here.

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Report: Orszag to leave White House

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Office and Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag will step down next month, Bloomberg News reported last night.

No official word yet on why Orszag may be leaving. OMB spokesman Ken Baer said “At this point, we are not confirming anything,” when Federal Times reporter Tim Kauffman asked about Orszag’s expected departure. But Orszag is getting married in September, which may have something to do with it. And the New York Times said that Orszag has told associates that “having worked on two budgets, a stimulus plan and the health care law, it is time to leave while he is ahead.”

Orszag’s complicated private life earned him press attention far beyond the wonky publications that usually cover OMB, and he may be the first OMB director to have been described as having an “Internet fan base.” Last year, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told the NY Times that Orszag “made nerdy sexy.”

His departure would not be unusual at this point. Running OMB is a high-stress job, and several other directors have left after about two years. But at least Orszag will presumably be able to leave on his terms, which may be more than Gen. Stanley McChrystal can say by the end of the week.

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Treasury switching to direct deposit for benefits

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It’s amazing how expensive something as simple as benefit checks can be. The Treasury Department is getting ready to stop mailing government benefits to citizens in check form and, instead, switching to electronic payments. In a blog posted this morning, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said this will save $300 million over the first five years, and more than $120 million each following year.

But what about those who don’t have a bank account, or who don’t want to use direct deposit? Orszag said they’ll get their benefits through Treasury’s Direct Express debit cards. He said this change will benefit people without bank accounts because they won’t have to go to check cashing places, which charge very high fees.

Orszag also said moving to direct deposit will also mean no more checks will be lost, stolen, altered or fraudulently signed. But anyone who decides to use debit cards will have to be extra careful, since it’s easier to use stolan debit cards than stolen checks.

“This is a win-win for the American people because it makes government more convenient and cost-effective,” Orszag wrote. “This is precisely the type of smart, streamlined improvement that this administration is committed to making across government to boost efficiency and modernize how we do business.”

This reform follows the Obama administration’s March announcement that 640,000 federal employees would stop receiving paper pay stubs.

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Pay stubs going electronic for 640K employees

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For about 640,000 federal employees at agencies like the Homeland Security and Treasury departments, the paper pay stub will soon be a thing of the past. White House budget director Peter Orszag yesterday announced that the Agriculture Department’s National Finance Center is going to stop issuing paper pay stubs as part of an effort to save about $4 million in printing and mailing costs per year.

Until now, employees have had to opt out of receiving paper stubs, but only about 192,000 people chose to do so. Under the new plan, all employees will receive electronic pay statements by default unless they specifically ask for paper.

This idea was submitted by several people last year as part of the SAVE award program. NFC-covered agencies lag far behind the rest of the federal workforce, Orszag said — about 64 percent of the entire federal government currently receive electronic paystubs.

Other agencies whose payrolls are handled by NFC are the Justice, Commerce, Labor and Housing and Urban Development departments, the Peace Corps, the Government Accountability Office, and the Library of Congress.

EDIT: What do you think about this move? Sound like a good idea? Or will you choose to keep receiving paper pay statements instead? And if so, why? We’d like to hear from you. E-mail me at slosey@federaltimes.com.

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