Reid: Cut to military pensions could be addressed in omnibus

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday hinted that some cuts to military retiree pensions could be reversed in the omnibus bill funding the government.

The Democratic leader blocked an attempt by Republicans to add an amendment to the unemployment insurance bill that would have restored the $6 billion cut to military pensions approved in last month’s budget deal.

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Reid said that he was opposed to adding the amendment to the unemployment measure because the cuts are likely to be addressed in the omnibus spending bill that is being negotiated by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.).

"I would bet that that’s addressed in this deal that Mikulski and Rogers come up with, this helping veterans," Reid said.

The pension cut negotiated late last year by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) would hold the increase in the payments to 1 percentage point below inflation beginning in December 2015.

Under intense pressure from military advocates, one in three lawmakers have come out in favor of reversing the cuts to working-age military retiree pensions. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, added new heft to the push on Tuesday by backing legislation from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) that would reverse the benefit reductions.

More than a dozen bills have been introduced to repeal the pension cuts, but there is no bipartisan agreement on how the measure should be paid for.

A spokesman for Murray said the senator is open to reversing the cuts, but only if there's a replacement for the $6 billion saved by reducing military retiree benefits.

Afix to the cuts to exclude medically retired members will come "early on" in the congressional session, the spokesman said, but he was not sure whether it would come as stand-alone legislation or as part of the omnibus spending bill.

The omnibus spending bill is expected to be released as early as Wednesday, and would fund the government for the rest of fiscal 2014.

— Ramsey Cox contributed.