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Senate panel approves domestic benefits bill

By Ed O'Keefe

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) may be outraging liberals with his opposition to the Medicare buy-in provision and public option in the Senate health-care reform bill, but his sponsorship of a key federal workplace measure showcases him as a progressive in a different arena.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 8 to 1 on Wednesday to approve a bill that grants full domestic benefits to the partners of gay federal employees. Lieberman chairs the panel and co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Lieberman, Collins and Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Roland Burris (D-Ill.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) voted for the bill while Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) voted no. A House panel approved a similar bill at a contentious hearing last month.

"I believe this legislation really is on the right side of history and supports another concept we believe in, which is equal pay for equal work," Lieberman said at the hearing.

"The basic point here is that federal employees should not have to choose between their commitment to federal public service and their commitment to their families, because they get fewer protections for their families than employees in opposite-sex marriages," he said.

Lieberman and Collins also said they were unhappy with the Office of Personnel Management for failing to provide information on how the Obama administration plans to offset the costs of the bill. Lieberman will hold the bill from a full Senate vote until OPM provides the data.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | December 16, 2009; 10:54 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Workplace Issues  
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Comments

Bravo to the committee. The situation in this country, where we deny equal rights to all persons, is a disgrace. My wife and I who have been married for 48 years strongly support this legislation. It is the honorable and fair thing to do! I hope that the Senate and House move on quickly with approval.

Posted by: mnewmanstudio | December 16, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Why not just say one federal employee can have everyone in the US as a partner? then we'd all be on his or her health plan retirement plan etc. No need for national heath care!

Posted by: FLvet | December 16, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Well, it is no surprise that Sen. Joe (mentia) Lieberman (I-Aetna) is for this. After all, it means more money for health insurers.

What could be bad about that?

Posted by: capemh | December 16, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

My thanks to the eight senators on the committee for passing this important workplace rule! Yes, they are on the right side of history and of simple, basic fairness!

Posted by: jaynashvil | December 16, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I have to say I am surprised by the fair and equal "proposal". Maybe by 2020 the rest of us could enjoy equality. I can dream.

Posted by: DLukeinMilw | December 16, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Good for him but this first step may be a ruse on his part. Will the senator flip-flop again when the bill goes to the floor? I wonder if the man is going senile the way he has been acting of late. I once admired him but I have no use for his ilk (irrational politicians) anymore.

Posted by: mraymond10 | December 16, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

In the end it comes down to "cost."

What if all the gay employees were straight with a spouse and children. Should they be denied employment because they have too many mouths to feed? Maybe the government should only hire single, celibate, and unattached people. It would be cheaper.

Posted by: elpjr1 | December 16, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Well equall..Some of us are married ...to goverment emplyoees...but we donot get any benefits or the children. Childsupportchecks ...WHERE do we apply?
Women donot get there Alomony..childsupport ..social securitychecks haveing to wait till 65-67 years of age.. WHILE FEDREAL EMPLYEOES can collecd SS check 10 to 15 years before reaching the 65..years of age.

Posted by: sigup | December 16, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

The former office manager of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) has been charged with stealing more than $75,000 from the U.S. Senate, authorities said.

Ngozi T. Pole, 39, was indicted Tuesday on charges of wire fraud and theft of government property. The Waldorf resident could face up to 20 years in prison, according to the Justice Department.

Authorities said that Pole was Kennedy's office manager and was responsible for transmitting salary and bonus information to the Senate Disbursing Office to ensure employees were properly paid. From 2003 through 2007, the indictment alleges, Pole submitted fraudulent paperwork that boosted his pay and bonuses by more than $75,000. He hid his scam by giving Kennedy staffers documents that falsely showed he was receiving the proper pay and bonuses, prosecutors said.

Posted by: stephenwhelton | December 16, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

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