Budget receives mixed reception

First congressional budget in years criticized for military pension cut

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

A landmark budget deal authored by House Republican Paul Ryan and Senate Democrat Patty Murray has broken a years-long cycle of budgetless fiscal uncertainty, but has also drawn severe criticism from those who oppose making cuts to the cost-of-living allowances to retired military.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, the first congressional budget passed in four or five years (in itself a subject of much debate), set overall discretionary spending for the current year at just over $1 trillion — about halfway between Senate and House levels.

The agreement would also provide $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, split between defense and nondefense programs. That relief is offset elsewhere in the budget by specific deficit-reduction programs and mandatory savings and non-tax revenue totaling some $85 billion.

Ryan addressed the outcry to pension cuts in a Dec. 22 editorial in USA Today, where he stated that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, himself a combat veteran, said that Congress could no longer put off military compensation reform.

“The federal government has no greater obligation than to keep the American people safe and we must take care of the men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line,” wrote Ryan.

“For that reason, Congress is understandably hesitant to make changes to military compensation.

“Even hesitance has a cost. The need for reform is undeniable.”

He cites the cost per servicemember in active duty — excluding the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — as having increased by 41 percent since 2001, using inflation-adjusted dollars.

However, a blog posted the same day on John Q. Public titled “Do the Right Thing” accuses Ryan of being “not so concerned that he wants to look at reducing congressional pay or the pay of generals, admirals and senior executives — just concerned enough to cut the pensions of the military’s middle class.”

But other elected officials who voted in support of Ryan’s bill — including Rep. Kevin McCarthy — say that the budget is what a deeply polarized America needs: a compromise.

McCarthy stated on the House floor that conservatives have produced budgets that would grow jobs the last four years, but that without a budget from the Senate there was not even a framework for compromise.

Leaders in DOD have commented that a budget — any budget — would reduce the tumultuous climate that has yielded sequestration, furloughs and a general decline in morale for the federal workforce.

McCarthy said that with each year Congress failed to pass a budget, it ceded the power the Founding Fathers intended for the Executive Branch of government. He said Republicans will continue fight for limited government and empowered individuals, but noted that the standard set by this agreement is critically important.

“This budget agreement takes first steps to reform mandatory spending that starts out slow but compounds over the years and results in real and growing spending reductions year over year. It also moves us closer to more responsible entitlement reforms that lead to a balanced budget, paying down our debt and a sustainable economic future,” said McCarthy.

Story First Published: 2013-12-25