Republicans hastily moved Tuesday to pass a bill reversing cuts to military pensions. But one influential Republican didn't go along: Paul D. Ryan, the man who brokered the deal enacting the cuts in the first place.
“This bill undermines one part of last year’s bipartisan budget agreement," the Wisconsin Republican and Budget Committee chairman said in a statement after the vote. "I’m glad it keeps the compensation reforms for federal employees and billions of dollars in commonsense cuts. But on military compensation, it takes a step back." The military cost-of-living adjustment bill easily passed under suspension of the rules Tuesday, 326-90. Nineteen Republicans voted against the measure, which would pay for extending military-retiree benefits that were recently cut under the budget agreement by extending sequestration levels for Medicare.
Ryan's break with GOP leadership on the bill is a bit surprising, even if he was the one behind the cuts when he brokered a budget deal with Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash.
"Our military leaders — and the math — have been clear: Compensation costs are hollowing out the Pentagon’s budget," Ryan said in his statement. "They are taking resources away from training and modernization — and putting our troops at risk. This bill takes away over $6 billion from military readiness."
House Armed Services ranking Democrat Adam Smith of Washington made a similar argument on the floor.
Ryan made the case in his statement that the budget agreement delayed the military-retirement changes for two years so the Pentagon’s compensation commission would have time to think of alternative reforms if necessary.
"This bill undercuts that process," he said. "Rather than making the tough choices, it sidesteps them. I’m open to replacing this reform with a better alternative. But I cannot support kicking the can down the road."