Murray: Compromise was necessary on military pension cuts

Posted at 9:58 AM, Dec 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-18 11:58:18-05

By Dana Davidsen

(CNN) — Sen. Patty Murray, co-crafter of the bipartisan budget agreement and member of the veterans affair committee, said Wednesday cuts to pension benefits for some military veterans under the spending plan was a part of a compromise to avoid billions in cuts to the defense industry.

“We had to look at how we could find compromises. There are things in this I like and there are things in this I don’t like,” the Senate Budget Committee chair and Democrat from Washington State said in an interview on CNN’s “New Day.”

“But at the end of the day, if we couldn’t find a compromise on how we move forward, then we would be facing a 20 billion dollar hit to our defense industry — meaning layoffs, uncertainty and a lot of furloughs, harming a lot of families across the country,” Murray told CNN anchor Kate Bouldan.

Murray comes from a military family. Her father, who was awarded a Purple Heart in World War II, suffered from multiple sclerosis and was disabled.

The budget agreement between Murray and Republican House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin eases spending caps for the next two fiscal years while softening the impact of across-the-board federal spending cuts, known as the sequester, on defense and non-defense programs and calling for more than $20 billion in deficit reduction.

The deal cuts pension cost of living raises by one percentage point for military retirees who aren’t disabled and not yet 62 years old. Cost of living hikes are automatic raises intended to keep up with inflation.

Military groups have expressed outrage over the deal in a letter to the White House and Congress last week.

Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire have been outspoken critics of the cuts to military pension benefits.

“Why is it in this budget deal that they are the only group that gets cuts to their benefits?” Ayotte said to CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” on Tuesday. “Of all the people we would cut first — our veterans, our disabled veterans.”

The budget deal overwhelmingly passed the House last week and goes on to the Senate for final approval Wednesday, where the bill will require a simple majority of 51 votes to pass.

CNN Money’s Jennifer Liberto contributed to this report

™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.