Senate begins work to repeal veterans’ pension cuts

The Senate will begin work next week on a bill that would repeal the $6 billion cut to military pensions.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on the motion to proceed to S. 1963, which was introduced by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). The first procedural vote will occur Monday evening.

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Pryor’s bill would repeal the $6 billion pension cut from the December 2013 budget deal that has come under harsh criticism, but the measure is not offset with a pay-for.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is prepared to mark up the legislation Monday, and Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he wants to have floor amendment votes on offset proposals.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced an omnibus veterans bill that also addresses the issue, paying for the pension fix by using funds from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Republicans said that wasn’t a true pay-for, however.

Democrats have rejected a proposal from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) that would reverse the pension cuts by preventing illegal immigrants from claiming a child tax credit. Democrats had other proposals as well that targeted offshore tax loopholes, but those were non-starters with Republicans.

In the budget deal, some veterans' cost-of-living retirement benefits were reduced by 1 percent. The omnibus spending bill corrected the fact that disabled veterans' benefits were also cut, but some lawmakers have argued no service member should see a reduction in cost-of-living increases.

If 60 senators vote to end debate on the motion to proceed, the Senate will likely spend the rest of the week debating that bill.