As John and others have pointed out, the Murray-Ryan budget compromise cuts spending by reducing cost of living increases in military pensions. The reduction even applies to disabled veterans.
Naturally, there has been a backlash against these cuts. So naturally, Patty Murray (but apparently not Paul Ryan) is trying to distance herself from them. Murray’s people are blaming Ryan. But these cuts could not have seen the light of day if Murray hadn’t backed them.
Murray’s other “out” is to argue that the cuts to military pensions are a placeholder — a gimmick, in effect:
We wrote this bill in a way that will allow two years before this change is implemented so that Democrats and Republicans can keep working to either improve this provision or find smarter savings elsewhere.
In other words, we can and we will look at other, hopefully better ways to change this policy going forward.
But if the pension cuts are eliminated, the budget savings they were to produce become a fraud. As for “smarter” offsetting savings, there is no guarantee that Republicans and Democrats can agree to any.
For example, as John noted, Sen. Sessions proposed closing a loophole that allows illegal immigrants to suck billions of dollars out of the treasury. Harry Reid was having none of it. This pattern is likely to be repeated if Democrats and Republicans look for alternatives ways of accruing the savings achieved by cuts in military pensions.
If mutually agreeable alternative cuts are out there, why didn’t Murray and Ryan identify and propose them? They had almost two months to do so. And if the pension cuts are problematic enough for Murray to walk away from now, how did they make their way into the Murray-Ryan deal?
The truth, I suspect, is that the pension cuts are in the compromise because defense contractors wanted relief from the sequester so that federal money will flow their way. The quid quo pro for tens of billions in sequester relief for the Pentagon was cuts in the military’s personnel costs in the form of pension reduction.
Defense contractors win and the Pentagon wins; only those who have served their country lose.
In Paul Ryan, the Dems found a non-cynical partner for this cynical trade-off. Ryan has long called for cuts to federal pensions and, as a reasonably principled guy, was agreeable to applying this remedy to veterans.
What will happen now? It depends on the extent of the backlash. Both political parties have an interest in seeing the issue fade away, since the deal received overwhelming Democratic support in both chambers and majority Republican support in the House.
If the issue doesn’t fade, look for the cuts to the pensions of disabled veterans to be repealed.