The Senate on Tuesday blocked a Republican-led effort to preserve approximately $6 billion in benefits to working-age military retirees, ensuring the cuts will remain a part of Congress’ broader budget deal.
The Senate voted 67 to 33 to end debate on the budget agreement introduced last week by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
The deal decreases the annual cost-of-living adjustment for working-age military retirees by 1 percent, cutting approximately $6 billion in spending over 10 years.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., introduced an amendment on Monday that would have reversed the cuts.
“These proposed cuts represent a broken promise to those who have voluntarily chosen to serve our nation in the military,” Wicker said, in a statement.
The amendment was co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss. But the amendment — as well as a push last week from Sessions, Wicker and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, to swap out the cuts — was viewed as unlikely to succeed because it would have stalled the budget deal: The House is out of session until next year, meaning that if the Senate aims to pass the measure before year’s end, it will have to approve the House version.
Military outside groups such as The Military Coalition and the Military Officers Association of America backed the senators’ effort to restore the funding. By The Military Coalition’s estimation the cuts will reduce retired pay by nearly 20 percent at age 62 for members who retired after 20 years.
But the push put them at odds with leaders from the Defense Department. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel backed the budget deal. But Hagel noted that even with the agreement the department still faces huge fiscal challenges.
The cuts — which don’t take effect until December 2015 — will get another look next year. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said that committee members will “review this change.” Levin also suggested that the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Committee, which is expected to look at ways to reform military pay, could impact the issue further. That report isn’t due until May 2014.
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