WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday agreed to rescind a $6 billion cut to military pensions but the bill conflicts with a similar measure now under debate in the Senate.
The House voted, 326-90, in favor of the bill that would make up the revenue loss by tacking on an additional year of mandated “sequester cuts” to Medicare in 2024. The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., has no offset.
The Senate voted 94-0 on Monday to move forward with debate on Pryor’s bill.
Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, issued a statement Tuesday in support of the House bill.
“The House has rightly reversed the recent, unjust cuts to veterans’ pensions in a fiscally responsible manner,” he said.
Pryor held a press conference in the Capitol with other Democratic supporters to urge swift passage of a simple fix that would honor the commitments Congress has made to those serving in the military.
“To us this is about honoring the brave men and women in uniform, and honoring the commitments we have made,” he said.
Asked about the House bill, Pryor said that he was not familiar with the latest version, noting that the plan seemed to be changing every hour. As for an offset, Pryor suggested that debate could be postponed for now.
“We should not get all hung up on a pay for right now,” he said.
The dispute in Congress is also playing out on the campaign trail in Arkansas with Pryor and Cotton trading jabs.
“Our troops have sacrificed repeatedly to defend our country and, of all groups, they should have never been singled out for retroactive pension cuts,” Cotton said Tuesday. “Senate Democrats should stop using veterans as a political pawn and pass this legislation immediately.”
Pryor noted that it was House Republicans who negotiated for having the pension cut included in the budget resolution. Pryor said he spoke out against its inclusion early but voted for the budget resolution because the alternative was another government shutdown.
“For anyone who voted against it … they would have done far more harm to veterans by doing that,” Pryor said.
Cotton and Reps. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, and Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, voted in favor of the House bill.
With the Senate and House on different tracks, it is uncertain when Congress will actually agree to revoke the budget resolution measure that would reduce annual cost-of-living increases by 1 percent to pensions paid to working-age veterans.