Graham will oppose budget deal

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Thursday he would oppose a budget deal negotiated between the Senate and House because of cuts to military retirees’ benefits.

Graham, who faces reelection next year, said he would vote "no" because the agreement crafted by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), her House counterpart, would cost working-age retirees thousands of dollars in future benefits.

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“I’m for pension benefit reform but what they’re doing here is just unacceptable,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Changing the cola formula retroactively would cost an E7 $72,000 from 42 to 62,” he said, referring to a rank including sergeants first class, chief petty officers and master sergeants.

The budget deal would cut pension benefits for working-age military retirees by one percentage point below inflation. Veterans groups say this could cost their members 20 percent of their retirement pay over 20 years.

“I don’t know how you could look the retirement force in the eye and people about to retire and say this is not disproportionate,” Graham said.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, initially said he would vote for the budget deal. On Thursday morning, however, he said he is now undecided because of how the deal would impact military retirees.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said he plans to speak out on the issue at 4 p.m. Thursday.

—Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.