February 11, 2014, 11:43 am
A separate vote on military pension cuts
By Jeremy Herb
The House will still vote on repealing the cuts to military pensions this week, even though the proposal was stripped from House Republican leadership’s plans to raise the debt limit, according to a House GOP leadership aide.
House GOP leaders plan to hold a separate vote to repeal the $6 billion military pension cuts that were included in the December 2013 budget deal, in addition to the clean debt-limit bill, according to the aide.
The vote could occur as soon as Tuesday evening due to the potential for a snowstorm on Wednesday.
Republicans had combined the debt-ceiling hike with a military pension cuts repeal in a proposal unveiled Monday night, but Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday he was abandoning that strategy because it didn’t attract enough support.
To offset the $6 billion that was saved by reducing the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for working-age military retirees, the Republican bill would extend sequestration on mandatory Medicare spending one year, to 2024.
Republicans could have been left open to criticism from Democrats had they pulled a vote on the COLA cuts altogether, as lawmakers from both parties have pressed to repeal the reductions that were part of the December budget agreement.
While there has been a flurry of bills introduced in both chambers to repeal the pension cuts, none of them has been able to identify an offset with bipartisan support.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he'll vote against the measure to repeal the pension cuts due to the sequester extension, which he said undermines efforts to reform long-term mandatory spending.
“It's not helpful,” he said.
But Hoyer said it's too early to know where the rest of his caucus stands on the issue.
"We haven't counted on it, so I don't know," he said.
Many Democrats did vote for extending the mandatory sequester spending caps, however, in the December budget deal, which included a two-year extension to 2023 that saved $28 billion.
The Senate is also moving a bill that would repeal the COLA cuts for working-age retirees, and voted 94-0 to proceed to debate on the bill Monday.
But the Senate bill from Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) does not include an offset, and Republicans have made clear they will oppose the bill unless it is paid for.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he will allow a vote on an amendment from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) to pay for the repeal by preventing illegal immigrants from claiming the additional child tax credit. That proposal has been a non-starter with Democrats, however.
The pension cuts from the December budget deal reduce COLAs by 1 percentage point below inflation for military retirees under age 62.
— Russell Berman and Mike Lillis contributed.