The Washington Post’s Ed O’keefe reports that aides to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) are suggesting that the senator may introduce legislation extending benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees “‘within weeks’ and well before July 4th.” The legislation was voted out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last year on a bipartisan basis (Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) co-sponsored the measure), but Lieberman had promised not to move this on the floor of the Senate “until we get the explicit offsets” from the Office of Personnel Management. Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the legislation would cost approximately $310 million through 2020, leading some to speculate that the larger-than-anticipated price tag “could jeopardize efforts to pass the bill this year.” Lieberman dismissed these concerns:
“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.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a similar domestic partner benefits bill in November of 2009, but it also still has to pass the full chamber. “In June, President Obama endorsed the bill when he extended some benefits to the same-sex partners of federal workers, including coverage by the long-term-care insurance program for federal employees and permission for staffers to use their sick leave to take care of their partners.”