Reps. Martha Roby (R-AL) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) have introduced a legislative plan to protect veterans’ pension benefits from the slashes they would receive if cuts from the recently-passed budget deal ever materialized.
Instead of cutting veterans’ pensions, Roby’s and Fitzpatrick’s plan replaces the savings those cuts provided by closing a loophole that allows illegal aliens to access as much as $7 billion of taxpayer money in the form of tax credits.
Their measure would specifically prevent illegal aliens from accessing refunds in the form of the Refundable Child Tax Credit. Their bill is a House version of the amendment to the budget that Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, attempted to introduce before being procedurally blocked from doing so by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Roby said House leaders should back the plan and should be ready to pass it in early 2014 to fix this matter quickly.
“Today I am joining Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick and others in the House to offer a companion bill to Sen. Sessions’ common sense amendment,” Roby said in a statement about the bill.
I believe that this is a fix the Republican Conference can rally around. I have personally contacted the House leadership this morning to give voice to the concerns of military retirees in my district who feel singled out by the budget agreement. I am strongly encouraging our leaders to use the Christmas week as an opportunity to build support for this or similar legislation so that we can pass it upon our return in January. In my opinion, it should be the first item on the docket for 2014.
Fitzpatrick added that while he supports the budget deal, it financially supports itself in part by cutting retired service members’ pensions–something he cannot support. “This nation desperately needs a return to fiscal normalcy and bipartisan cooperation,” Fitzpatrick said. “While the Bipartisan Budget Act is a step in that direction, it does so partly on the backs of our brave military veterans. What I’ve done is introduce a bill to remove that burden from our military retirees and replace it with common sense reforms to the Child Tax Credit program.”
A 2011 report from the Inspector General for the Department of Treasury shows that “millions of people are seeking this tax credit who, we believe, are not entitled to it.”
“We have made recommendations to the IRS as to how they could address this, and they have not taken sufficient action in our view to solve the problem,” the IG for Treasury wrote in that report.
Roby’s office noted in its press release on this new bill that the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that illegal aliens and other people illicitly accessing the Refundable Child Tax Credit cost the country about $7 billion. That $7 billion would be more than enough to offset the $6 billion to cuts to all veterans’ pensions contained in the now passed budget deal.
House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the congressional leaders who cut the budget deal in the first place, have both described the slashes to specifically disabled and injured military veterans’ pensions as a “mistake.” As Breitbart News has reported, Ryan knew about what he now calls a mistake for at least two days before the House voted to pass the deal last week–and he did nothing to try to fix it ahead of time.
Murray came out on Wednesday and called for Congress, when it returns in January, to find a way to ensure disabled and injured veterans are exempted from the pension cuts. In an email to Breitbart News, Ryan spokesman Kevin Seifert said that Ryan “supports the bipartisan proposal made by Chairman Murray yesterday afternoon to exclude medically retired personnel and survivors’ annuities from the modest COLA reduction included in the Bipartisan Budget Act.”
However, Seifert would not answer when asked if Ryan would support the Roby-Fitzpatrick-Sessions plan to replace the cuts to all veterans’ pensions with the savings that would be obtained from keeping illegal aliens from getting the Refundable Child Tax Credit, rather than just exempt the cuts to disabled and injured veterans’ pensions. Instead, Seifert pointed to how Ryan’s sequester-replacement legislation that passed the House in May 2012 contained a closing of that loophole. That legislation never became law, however, so illegal aliens can still access the tax credit.
“Congressman Ryan continues to support requiring Social Security numbers for people to claim the refundable Child Tax Credit,” Seifert said when asked multiple times if Ryan would support leading an effort to cut off illegal alien access to the tax credit as a way to protect the pensions of all veterans.
Seifert argues that Ryan believes cuts to some veterans’ pensions are necessary no matter what, saying that Ryan “and the defense community agree that addressing the growth in military compensation costs is critical to maintaining a strong national defense.”
“This is a point made repeatedly by both the civilian and uniformed leaders of the Defense Department as recently as this afternoon’s DoD press conference,” Seifert said.
However, Roby and Fitzpatrick argue that there is so much waste elsewhere in government, like with the illegal aliens’ access to taxpayers’ money via this tax credit, that veterans should be the last people cut. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), a congressman who co-sponsored Roby’s and Fitzpatrick’s plan, said he believes all veterans should be honored–not just wounded warriors.
“As both a citizen and an elected representative, I revere and cherish every single American who heroically volunteers to serve our nation in uniform,” Kelly said in a statement on Thursday. “I believe our veterans deserve every single penny they earned for serving our great country–and I will always have their back in every policy debate, every time. Even when crafting practical yet imperfect fiscal solutions such as the recent budget deal, our commitment to our military members must never waiver.”
Roby added that House Republicans should use the power they have in the majority to force Senate Democrats to hold a vote on their plan.
“We need to make this right. In the coming weeks, we will try to use our position of strength in the House majority to improve upon the budget agreement and better prioritize our budget savings,” she said in her statement.