The Edmond Sun

December 17, 2013

Budget agreement removes $6 billion from military retirement

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe has blasted a budget agreement tailored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. The budget compromise between the House and Senate breaks a promise Congress made to veterans who have served their country with honor, Inhofe said.

A Republican filibuster attempt to prevent the bill from moving forward for a final vote failed Tuesday by a vote of 67-33. The 55 Democrats and independents were joined by 12 Republicans in approving the plan. President Barack Obama has given his support of the bill that calls for more than $20 billion in deficit reduction.

Passage of the bill would prevent another government shutdown in January. Some Senate Democrats balked that the deal does not extend unemployment insurance.

The Ryan-Murray budget agreement removes $6 billion from funding retirement benefits. Inhofe was joined by U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., in introducing an amendment to restore full retirement pay for military retirees.

“The Ryan-Murray budget deal cherry picked once again from our men and women in uniform to strip away from the retirement benefit they have earned by their service,” Inhofe said.

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn voted no on cloture today and has said he cannot support the Ryan-Murphy agreement. On Tuesday, Coburn released his annual oversight report, http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ContentRecord_id=e7359436-1572-414e-8acc-0222cad1c7d5.

“As the U.S. war effort in the Middle East winds to a close, the military has destroyed more than 170 million pounds worth of useable vehicles and other military equipment,” Coburn stated. “The military has decided that it will simply destroy more than $7 billion worth of equipment rather than sell it or ship it back home.”

The bill has already passed in the House with Representatives James Lankford, Tom Cole and Frank Lucas voting in favor of the bill, while Congressmen Markwayne Mullin and Jim Bridenstine opposed the measure.

“This will continue real deficit reduction and protect our national defense from the across-the-board cuts advocated by this administration,” Lankford said after the House vote. “In fact, even with slightly increased spending in 2014, which is offset by other mandatory spending reductions, the 2014 budget is still lower than the 2011 and 2012 House Republican-passed budget.”

Lankford said this change would only take effect for new federal hires or those employees who have not yet reached five years of service by the end of 2013.

Communications Director for Inhofe, Donelle Harder, said as of Tuesday afternoon it appeared that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was unlikely to allow Inhofe’s amendment to the bill. A vote on the final passage of the bill is likely to be Tuesday or Wednesday morning, Harder said.

In 2012, Congress formed the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to reform benefits while creating opportunities for meaningful pay, Inhofe said.

“That Commission was told they could recommend any option as long as it grandfathered those who currently serve and those who are currently retired,” Inhofe said.

Inhofe said the Ryan-Murray budget deal automatically subtracts a full percentage point from uniformed service retired pay Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for those under age 62 and who retire at the 20-year point.

A report by the Military Officers Association of America that military personnel “who serve a 20-year career would lose nearly 20 percent of their retired pay. An E-7 retiring at age 40 today would experience a loss of $83,000 in purchasing power — an E-5 would lose $124,000.”