Incredibly, the lead negotiators for the House GOP have just agreed that the only group deserving budget punishment in the new spending deal is the career military. It is an obscene deal, one made worse by a patently cynical attempt to hide the blow to the military by "restoring" cuts to the pensions of wounded veterans. A vote for this betrayal of the military will haunt every Republican who supports it.
When the first outlines of the budget "deal" emerged late last year, I counseled caution as the final details could change. I had assumed sane people who remind the House GOP that spending discipline shouldn't begin and end with hammer blows to the career military that has been at war for more than a dozen years.
I figured the details would change and the military would emerge if not saluted for their service, then at least not punished for it.
In fact, to repeat: The only serious cut in the entire deal is aimed at active duty and retired career military, with a small change made from the round outline one to assist disabled veterans supposed to serve as cover for the Members of Congress who vote for this. This looks like a slick, cynical attempt to hide the huge impact of the bill on the career military, thus using the disabled veterans as cover for their friends and colleagues of two decades who emerged from the wars not disabled or wounded. This deeply cynical move makes disgust with the "deal" deeper, not less.
I would have had no objection to a spending plan that called on everyone to sacrifice, that reformed all COLAs, that means-tested wealthy recipients of Medicare and which ended the absurd, obscene subsidy net that supports everything from NPR to Amtrack.
But support for a spending bill that blows through agreed upon sequester caps and slops out great new mounds of spending of borrowed dollars on all sorts of hands-out to special interests while cutting the retirement benefits of 20+ year career military is shameful.
The only people called upon to sacrifice are those in uniform today or those who retired after 20+ years of military service? Astonishing, and worse than astonishing. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers is the GOPer responsible for this deal --and it will shock the veterans in his Kentucky District. They will rightly ask why he didn't fight for them as they fought for him, his family and his country through a dozen years of way.
Senate Democrats who vote for this bill can rightly expect the issue to haunt them throughout 2014 as the families of the warriors they had screwed show up at their rallies and the retired veterans speak up at town halls. I hope Ed Gillespie, running against the Democratic incumbent in Virginia Mark Warner and Tom Cotton, running against the hapless Mark Pryor in Arkansas, make a point of pointing to this outrage every day for the next nine months. The same charge should be made against Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Mark Udall in Colorado and Kay Hagan in North Carolina --indeed against every Democrat whose contempt for the career military is so great as to single them out for budget punishment after a dozen years of war.
House Republicans who break faith with the soldiers, sailors airmen and Marines --really, $45 billion in new spending but the career military had to take a $6 billion dollar cut?-- will run into the same fierce anger and rightly so. They are supposed to be the party of defense, not the party of throwing the military under the bus first.
Speaker Boehner, Leader Cantor and Rules Chair Sessions should act to allow amendments to restore the military retirement cuts. There may come a day when everyone in America is asked to sacrifice a point of their COLAs, but there shouldn't ever be a day when the only ones asked to do so are those who fought the wars for the longest period in American history.
It is a $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill, and the House GOP didn't fight to save $6 billion in military pensions for men and women who have been at war since 2001, who have deployed four, five, six and even seven times from their families while the party went on in D.C., the real estate values swelled, and the whole obscene "This Town" Beltway culture spun out of control?
Again, it isn't that the military are being asked to sacrifice. It is that they are the only ones being asked to sacrifice. The House appropriators just took the most deserving group in America and slashed their retirement benefit while leaving Members of Congress and their staffs, the senior members of the permanent government, and all the other hand-out takers of the big government money machine happy and applauding their bipartisan cooperation. "Disgusted" doesn't begin to capture the feeling that most voters will have towards this deal, and rightly so.