Ayotte tweaks proposal to repeal military pension cuts

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) is trying to win over Democrats to back her proposal repealing $6 billion in military pension cuts.

Ayotte said Tuesday that she was tweaking her proposal to offset the $6 billion pension cuts, which does so by preventing illegal immigrants from claiming the additional child tax credit.

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Ayotte says her new amendment addresses Democrats’ chief concern with her initial bill, because it allows taxpayers to use a child’s valid social security number to claim the credit, even if the parents are illegal immigrants.

Ayotte’s bill would save $20 billion over 10 years, she said, more than enough to offset the $6 billion needed to reverse the reduction in the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for working-age military retirees that was part of last month’s budget deal.

“They said their big beef last time was what about the children who are American children, and you’re hurting them, and I said, ‘OK, I’ll listen to you,’ and I’ve revamped my proposal,” Ayotte said Tuesday. “Any American child, even if they are born of someone who is here illegally, they can still get this tax credit, so I have taken their concerns head-on with this.”

But Democrats did not seem to be going along with Ayotte’s proposed change, saying that other offsets were better suited to fix the military COLA cuts.

“I think there are better pay-fors than that,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I don’t think you need to pay for this fix by harming programs that affect children.”

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told The Hill he still needed to see the details of Ayotte’s bill, but that he didn’t expect Democrats to support a measure that would “hit kids to pay for this.”

“Nor do we have to — there’s a lot of better pay-fors from my perspective, including the Shaheen pay-for,” Levin said, referring to a Democratic-backed measure from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) that would offset the $6 billion by closing offshore tax loopholes.

There is clear bipartisan support for repealing the military retirement cuts, evidenced at a Senate Armed Services hearing Tuesday on the issue where no senators spoke out in support of the provision from the budget deal.

But the two sides have yet to come together on a way to offset the $6 billion cut, despite a flurry of bills introduced to repeal the COLA reductions.

Levin said that he wanted to bring a military pensions repeal bill to the Senate floor without an offset, and then let senators propose various amendments that would pay for the retirement benefits.

“It’s going to be a lot harder to get a bill to the floor which has broad, bipartisan coalition if you try to identify the pay-for in advance,” Levin said. “Because none of them are going to have majority support or 60 vote going in, but they could get 60 votes after debate on the floor.”