Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced legislation Thursday that would roll back the pension cuts included in the budget agreement, and he’s already getting some key support.
The Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman introduced the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act, calling the bill the product of “a year of bipartisan work.”
The bill — a combination of two veterans omnibus bills — tackles a wide range of veterans-related issues, including compensation, health care, administrative fixes at the Veterans Affairs Department, education, veterans’ employment, and — an issue on the minds of many members of Congress — restoring the proposed $6 billion plus in cuts to working-age military retirees.
“The American people have spoken very loudly and very clearly. They have told members of Congress to restore these cuts to military retirees, and we have listened,” the Vermont independent said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to fast-track the legislation under Rule 14, which will allow the bill to skip the committee process, and be taken up after the Senate returns from recess, a spokesman for Sanders said.
And the Military Officers Association of America came out with some early support for the bill on Friday afternoon, citing the provision to restore the COLA funding. MOAA President Norb Ryan said the group “deeply appreciates” the restoration’s inclusion in the legislation.
Under the budget agreement passed late last year, the annual cost-of-living adjustment for working-age military retirees would decrease by a total of 1 percent over 10 years.
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President Obama has said he’ll nominate John King to fill out the last few months of Obama’s presidency as Secretary of Education. King has been in an acting secretary role since Arne Duncan stepped down in December. The White House is pressuring the Senate to act quickly on the nomination.
Bernie Sanders supporters aren’t taking this whole superdelegate thing lying down. Despite a tie a blowout win against Hillary Clinton, Sanders trails her by some 350 delegates in the overall count, thanks mostly to superdelegates pledging to support her. His backers have taken to creating a MoveOn.org petition to pressure the superdelegates to be flexible. It reads: “Commit to honoring the voters—let everyone know that you won’t allow your vote to defeat our votes. Announce that in the event of a close race, you’ll align yourself with regular voters—not party elites.” So far it’s attracted 162,000 signatures.
House Speaker Paul Ryan today is trying to convince his large but divided conference that they need to pass a budget under regular order. “Conservatives are revolting against higher top-line spending levels negotiated last fall by President Obama and Ryan’s predecessor, then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). GOP centrists are digging in on the other side, pledging to kill any budget that deviates from the two-year, bipartisan budget deal.” Ryan’s three options are to lower the budget numbers to appease the Freedom Caucus, “deem” a budget and move on to the appropriations process, or “preserve Obama-Boehner levels, but seek savings elsewhere.”
“A bill headed for President Barack Obama this week includes a provision that would ban U.S. imports of fish caught by slaves in Southeast Asia, gold mined by children in Africa and garments sewn by abused women in Bangladesh, closing a loophole in an 85-year-old tariff law.” The Senate approved the bill, which would also ban Internet taxes and overhaul trade laws, by a vote of 75-20. It now goes to President Obama.
Bernie Sanders has closed to within seven points of Hillary Clinton in a new Morning Consult survey. Clinton leads 46%-39%. Consistent with the New Hampshire voting results, Clinton does best with retirees, while Sanders leads by 20 percentage points among those under 30. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is far ahead with 44% support. Trailing by a huge margin are Ted Cruz (17%), Ben Carson (10%) and Marco Rubio (10%).