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04/06/2010

FRC found their reason to resist Berry long ago. Everything else is just filler

by Jeremy Hooper

Screen Shot 2010-04-06 At 10.21.39 Am-3Screen Shot 2010-04-06 At 10.13.18 Am-3Last week, during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the US Office of Personnel Management budget for fiscal year 2011, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and OPM Director John Berry had this frank, yet in no way out of the ordinary, exchange:





*Source: Hearing on FY 2011 OPM Budget [Appropriations]

Sen. Collins wants to move forward, which is both understandable and just. We all want to move forward. But obviously this thing has to be paid for in a smart way, and so Berry wants to keep certain cards close to his chest so that, as he says, he can avoid another "tiger" stepping in and taking what apparently is a justified offset. It's typical procedural wonkiness, which itself is designed to help the process move forward without an unneeded snag. Collins seems to understand and accept it, even if she's antsy.

Oh, but did we tell you? John Berry is a gay man. So for groups like the Family Research Council, this means that anything he says or does in his powerful office is clearly part of some shady agenda meant to undermine social conservatives. Forget rational consideration and jump right into an ethics investigation:

Before he took the director's chair at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), John Berry was top dog at the National Zoo. But, as the President's HR guy is learning, overseeing federal policy is a whole different animal. For starters, his office can't rewrite the rules for employee benefits without first dealing with the tricky question of cost. Months after announcing that he would extend same-sex partner perks to federal employees, Berry's campaign hit a Senate snag. Before the government's highest ranking homosexual could satisfy his personal agenda, Congress ordered the agency to find a way to pay for the $63 million a year in new spending.

In a hearing before the Senate appropriations subcommittee, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) seemed frustrated that OPM hasn't identified a way to cover the costs. Until it does, her follow-up bill, which would force taxpayers to cover these significant others, is in legislative limbo. "I don't want to give you a hard time," Sen. Collins said during the hearing, "but... it's been five months and we're still waiting for those offsets, which... is preventing the bill from being taken up on the Senate floor." Although Berry insisted that his team had found a way to pay for these expensive perks, he refused to reveal the source of the cuts. "My promise to you is, as soon as the Committee is ready to go to the floor, and we have that CBO scoring, we will have an offset to cover that entire cost..."

Obviously, we have several problems with the idea--not the least of which is Berry's secrecy. How can we be sure that OPM isn't hurting other families to pay for this payoff to the President's political base? Without full disclosure, we can only guess that his idea is unpopular, unethical--or both.
*KEEP READING: Berry the Hatchet [FRC]

FRC has zero reason to think Berry is being unethical. They have zero reason to think he is being anything but sincere when he talks of his political need to keep his offset to himself and his staff for the time being. But they don't need any reasons, because this is John Berry we're talking about. Just like with Chai Feldblum, Kevin Jennings, Amanda Simpson, and every other presidential appointee/nominee who happens to be LGBT, FRC has had it out for Berry since the first day his name came into national prominence. Lest any of us forget this 11/09 smear video from FRC's Tony Perkins:

John Berry's offense, as prescribed by FRC's organizational mission, is simply that he serves this administration while 'mo. They can deny that all they want. But ask yourself how many other innocuous lines from random Appropriations hearings you've heard turned into some kind of "controversy."

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