By Ramsey Cox
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) tried to bring up an amendment to stop a $6 billion cut in military retiree benefits, but didn’t have the votes to set aside the pending amendments.
On Tuesday, Sessions tried to force the Senate to reopen the amendment process on a bipartisan budget deal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “filled the amendment tree” to stop other senators from being able to amend the deal.
The Senate is considering a budget deal negotiated by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and her House counterpart, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The bill sets top-line spending levels for 2014 and 2015 and reduces the sequester spending cuts by $63 billion over the next two years.
To offset the restored sequester cuts, the bill would reduce federal employee retirement benefits by $6 billion. Military retiree benefits are also cut by $6 billion.
Sessions asked to set aside Reid’s amendments in order to call up his own, but he didn’t have the votes needed to accomplish the procedural move — a simple majority.
Before the failed 46-54 vote, Murray said Sessions’s motion would “jeopardize” the entire deal, which the House overwhelmingly passed last week. She also said the benefit cuts don't go into effect for two years, giving lawmakers plenty of time to find another way to save $6 billion.
“Jeopardizing this deal right now only threatens our national security,” Murray said. “There is no doubt that improvements will be made where needed, but this motion is an effort to bring down this bill.”
Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) joined Sessions in speaking out against the $6 billion cut on the Senate floor.
All Republican senators voted with Sessions. They were joined by Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), who is up for a tough reelection in 2014.
The Senate is expected to pass the bill Wednesday afternoon, but it could be sooner if Republicans agree to yield back debate time.