Senate Votes Down Plan To Restore Veterans Benefits

The decision squared military groups and a handful of Republican senators against the Defense Department.

WASHINGTON - MAY 07: U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) talks on his cellular phone after the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon May 7, 2008 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Vice President Dick Cheney also attended the weekly luncheon. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)*** Local Caption *** Roger Wicker
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
Dec. 17, 2013, 6:39 a.m.

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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