On Wednesday, the Senate voted 64-36 to pass the budget deal negotiated by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). The deal increases discretionary domestic spending to over $1 trillion a year, by eliminating most the the sequester cuts. The deal pays for the spending hike through increased user fees and spending cuts, half of which occur a decade from now. One of the near-term spending cuts, however, is to reduce pension benefits for current veterans and active-duty military.
The Ryan-Murray budget deal hikes federal spending by $65 billion over the next two years. This spending is “paid for” by an increase in user fees, budget cuts in 2022 and 2023 and small reductions in current spending. One of these reductions is in pension benefits to veterans younger than 62. The budget deal would reduce the yearly cost-of-living adjustments for these military veterans. It would even impact those veterans who were forced to retire due to injuries sustained in the service of our country.
As my colleague Matt Boyle reported, House GOP leaders knew that the pension changes would impact wounded warriors days before the first vote on the budget deal. Amazingly, there was no attempt in the House to change this provision.
In the Senate, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) tried on Tuesday to amend this provision. He sought to repeal the changes to military pensions and also eliminate a welfare program benefitting illegal immigrants. The Senate, unfortunately, voted to uphold the illegal immigrant welfare program and cut veterans’ pensions.
The GOP establishment, with its assault on military pensions, won this budget battle. It ought, however, to lose the war.