Murray vows to fix cuts to military benefits
Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) vowed Wednesday to fix a “technical error” in the bipartisan budget agreement that cuts military retirees benefits.
“A provision in this deal which mistakenly impacted retirement benefits for disabled veterans … will be fixed in short order,” Murray said. “This technical error can, will and should be addressed.”
Later Wednesday, the Senate is expected to pass a bipartisan budget agreement negotiated by Murray and her House counterpart, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
Their bill has received bipartisan criticism for cutting $6 billion in military retiree benefits — a 1 percent cost-of-living cut — in order to replace some of the sequester cuts to the Pentagon.
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.
The bill raises airline security fees from $2.50 to $5.60 per ticket, and includes $28 billion in future cuts to Medicare fees. The deal also makes use of revenue from new oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and from higher premiums on government-backed private sector pensions.
The House overwhelmingly passed the deal last week. Tweaks cannot be made to the bill because the House has already left for the holiday.
Murray vowed that the Senate would later pass a technical correction ensuring that veterans with disabilities wouldn’t see a cut to their benefits.
Republican Georgia Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson introduced a sense of the Senate aimed at appeasing concerns over cuts to military benefits in the budget agreement.
“The solution should require contributions from all Americans,” Chambliss said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “Military retirees should not unfairly bear the burden of excessive government spending.”
Chambliss said the sense of the Senate would ease the minds of military personnel and communicate to them that the Senate would work hard in the next two years to find the $6 billion in savings somewhere else — the cut wouldn’t go into effect for the next two years.
After the Senate passes the budget deal, it will head to President Obama’s desk for his signature. After it becomes law, appropriators will have less than a month to produce an omnibus spending bill to avert another government shutdown.
Erik Wasson contributed to this article.