UPDATE: Just as quickly as he backed the solution, Levin withdrew his support for it, saying through an aide that closing a tax credit loophole for illegal aliens would “endanger” the “underlying legislation.”
“Sen. Levin would support legislation to repeal the military pension cuts if such an amendment didn’t endanger underlying legislation and if he supported the offset,” the aide told The Hill. “He doesn’t support the offset in Sen. Ayotte’s legislation, so he couldn’t offer support for her legislation.”
Levin’s aide did not explain or give any reasoning why closing a tax loophole that allows illegal aliens to access taxpayer money in an illicit manner, something the Inspector General for the Department of Treasury has lambasted, would somehow “endanger” a budget deal bill.
ORIGINAL STORY: Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) announced Tuesday he would vote in favor of a plan that would replace the pension cuts to military veterans contained in the budget deal struck in late 2013 with savings from closing a loophole that allows illegal aliens access to the Refundable Child Tax Credit.
The budget deal cut by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the pension plans of military veterans, including wounded warriors, disabled, medically-retired, and injured veterans, will see a $6 billion cut.
Shortly after the deal’s passage, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced a Senate bill that would restore the cuts to veterans’ pensions and offset them by closing a loophole that allows illegal aliens access to the Refundable Child Tax Credit. Levin said he would vote for Ayotte’s bill.
“I’ll vote for it when it’s offered,” Levin said on Tuesday, according to The Hill. “I would vote for it unless it in some ways messes up a bill that I favor.”
When the Ryan-Murray budget plan was on the floor in the Senate, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, offered an amendment that would have made a similar change to the budget deal, but Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) blocked Sessions’ amendment from getting a vote. The plan had already passed the House at that point and has since passed the full Senate and has been signed into law by the president.
Since then, Ayotte has offered her plan as a solution to the veteran pension cuts, and Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Martha Roby (R-AL) have offered a House version of the bill. The Roby-Fitzpatrick House bill has strong support from House members, garnering high-profile cosponsors like House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). The bill also has bipartisan support, as Democrat Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) has co-sponsored it as well.
Ryan’s office has refused to say if he would support the plan.
Other House plans have been introduced as well that address restoring the cuts to the pensions. Issa, for instance, has offered a plan that would offset restoring the veteran pensions with changes to the U.S. Postal Service. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), a powerful conservative member with considerable sway in the GOP conference, has a plan that would offset restoring the veteran pensions by cutting aid to Egypt and Pakistan while also selling mineral rights on federal lands. Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA) also has a plan that would simply restore the pensions to pre-cut levels without any offsetting cuts anywhere else.
As Ryan and Murray introduced their budget plan in mid-December, Ryan disseminated a document to House members and staff days before the House voted through his House Budget Committee that stated disabled and injured veterans’ pension plans would be exempt from these cuts. “This would not affect service members who retired because of disability or injury,” the document stated in part, a statement that turned out to be factually inaccurate.
As Breitbart News documented, Ryan and his House Budget Committee scrubbed that document of the false statement and republished a new document that did not contain the erroneous claim two full days before the House voted to pass the Bill 332-94. A total of 169 Republicans and 163 Democrats voted in favor of the plan in the House.
Ryan and his committee have refused to state whether they informed or notified any House members, Republicans or Democrats, that his committee edited the original document containing the false statement to remove that inaccurate statement.
After the bill had passed the House, the issue about the military pension cuts came to light–as well as other discoveries about the budgeting gimmicks Ryan and Murray used in the plan–fomenting a surge in grassroots opposition to the plan. Public outrage, especially from military and veteran communities, caused Murray to admit that the cuts specifically to disabled and injured veterans’ pensions were a “mistake” that she and Ryan would try to find a fix for when Congress returned in January. Ryan agreed that such cuts–the ones specifically to disable and injured veterans’ pensions–were a “mistake,” but argued in a follow-up op-ed in USA Today that he thinks all other veterans who were not injured or disabled should still see the slash to their pensions.
Even though Ryan now says the cuts to specifically injured and disable veterans’ pensions were a “mistake,” as Breitbart News subsequently reported, the fact that his office scrubbed the false statement originally claiming they were exempt means he knew what was in the budget deal bill two full days before the House voted to pass it, largely based off his talking points.