Senate on record opposing use of chained CPI

President Obama has put the new method, known as chained consumer price index, on the table in deficit talks with Republicans. Using it reduces entitlement benefits like Social Security over time and also raises revenues by reducing the value of tax breaks. 

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The vote on the amendment was by voice vote, so its usefulness in quantifying Senate opposition to the proposal is minimal. The amendment is non-binding because it is attached to the budget resolution, which does not have the force of law. 

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) sponsored the amendment.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said he supported protecting veterans, but supported using chained CPI elsewhere.

“I support chained CPI, just like the president when it comes to entitlement reform,” he said.

Sanders pushed for a roll call vote, but was talked out of it by Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

The Senate then voted on a proposal by Burr to create a new barrier to any proposal to raise taxes on veterans. The Murray budget calls for $1 trillion in new tax revenue and raising that amount--or any amount in the individual tax code--could effectively be blocked by the Burr provision, Democrats argued. 

The Burr amendment was voted not germane to the bill by a 45 to 54 vote. 

The powerful seniors lobbying group AARP hailed the vote.

“With the adoption of Senator Sanders’ amendment, the Senate makes clear the need to protect retirees, veterans and others from an unwarranted cut to their benefits. Much more than a mere technical adjustment or a ‘tweak,’ the chained CPI would, over the next ten years, take a combined $146 billion out of the pockets of America’s veterans and seniors who are already living on tight budgets," it said in a statement.

--This report was updated at 10:29 p.m.