Senate vote on same-sex benefits 'within weeks'
The Senate could vote on a bill extending fringe benefits to the same-sex partners of gay federal employees "within weeks" and well before July 4, according to aides to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.).
The Nutmeg State senator is lead sponsor of the measure, which would cost an estimated $310 million through 2020, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
That's a notable, but not terribly hefty price tag by Washington standards, and Lieberman is fine with the anticipated cost.
“This legislation would cost about two-hundredths of a percent of the federal government’s overall costs for the civilian workforce," Lieberman said Tuesday. "That is a very small price to pay for the improvements we would see in recruitment, retention, and morale. OPM has committed to provide an offset for the legislation before it is enacted, making it that much more reasonable.”
Indeed those offsets -- first requested by Lieberman and Senate Republicans in December -- aren't ready yet and won't be until Lieberman is ready to introduce the bill to the full Senate, according to an OPM spokesman.
Lieberman's bill may win some Republican votes, but a House version passed last year with no GOP support. The House bill also covers eligible federal retirees, giving it a heftier price tag that the GOP considers unacceptable.
"At a time when unemployment is at 9.9 percent, it’s absurd that Democrats would push a costly new benefit for federal employees when so many Americans in the private sector are out of work," said Frederick Hill, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which first approved the benefits bill. "This legislation is a good example of how this Congress and administration have neglected efforts to rein-in spending and create jobs in favor of an agenda to satisfy their political base."
Thoughts? The comments section awaits you.
• Question of the Week: In an effort to reform the federal hiring process, the Obama administration is moving away from essays for applicants and to resumes. It also wants to significantly cut the time it takes to get a government job. Will this improve the quality of the federal workforce? E-mail your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org and include your full name, hometown and employer. We may use your answer in Friday's Washington Post.
• Cabinet and Staff News: White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said Tuesday night that the naturalization process is being looked at to see if there can be improvements. The rules for working as a waiter at a White House State Dinner. White House deputy chief technology office reprimanded for using Gmail instead of government e-mail. Beau Biden is out of the hospital.
• Kabul bomb attack on NATO convoy kills 5 U.S. troops: The Islamist Taliban movement claimed responsibility for the blast, which it said was carried out by a suicide bomber driving a vehicle packed with 1,650 pounds of explosives.
• Va. Tech failed on campus security: The school disputes the department's finding that it violated the Clery Act's requirement of a “timely warning” to the campus when crimes or threats are reported.
• Officials find evidence of fraud at Head Start centers: The Government Accountability Office told Congress on that investigators posed as fictitious families to test whether Head Start centers in six states and the District followed federal rules. In eight of 15 cases, staff at the centers fraudulently misrepresented important financial information from applicants.
• Interior chief says department shares responsibility for cleanup: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the Minerals Management Service shares the responsibility for not ensuring the safety of a BP-run deepwater drilling rig.
• Secret Service probes Ala. teacher geometry lesson: School officials said he used an hypothetical example of shooting at the president to teach geometric angles.
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION:
• SEC unveils rules aimed at preventing another 'flash crash': The agency announced new measures aimed at avoiding a repeat of the recent market swoon, saying it would propose that trading in any given stock would pause if a stock dives more than 10 percent in five minutes.
• Agreement on draft resolution for new Iran sanctions: Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton shrugged off a surprise deal in which Iran would swap a portion of its low-enriched uranium for higher-grade uranium.
• Webb questions inclusion of U.S. Navy Veterans Association in VA guide: The Virginia senator asked Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki to clarify how groups that are included in the agency's directory of veterans service organizations are vetted.
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