Senate Quietly Clears Military COLA Fix After Debt Limit Suspense

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After a suspenseful vote to suspend the debt limit, the atmosphere in the Senate returned to normal in time to clear a measure rescinding cuts in military pension cost-of-living adjustments from last December's budget agreement.  

The action to restore the COLAs came on a 95-3 vote that went largely unnoticed in the Capitol in the flurry of activity surrounding the surprising debt limit suspense .  

While the Senate had been considering its own version of the measure sponsored by Mark Pryor, D-Ark., without any provisions to offset the cost, the quickest course of action was to just accept the version passed by the House Tuesday that would pay for the change by extending a sequester on Medicare costs for another year, through fiscal 2024.  

"I was proud to help lead the charge in the Senate to ensure our military retirees receive the benefits they've earned. I'm glad the House turned off the politics and helped us get this bill over the finish line. That being said, there's still work to do," Pryor said in a statement. "We must find a permanent and responsible solution for our future military retirees."  

Veterans' groups were quick to echo the sentiment about new service members.  

Senate Democrats previously floated the same offset as the one that will become law, but they wanted to use it to pay for reviving expanded unemployment insurance benefits rather than for the rollback of the cost-of-living adjustment changes. The long-term unemployed remain out of luck. The quick movement means that senators beat the snow  out of town for an extended Presidents Day recess.  

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., filed an amendment to Pryor's version that would have applied the House offset.  

"I opposed this provision in the budget, and I have co-sponsored legislation to fix it – meaning fully reinstating the COLA for our military retirees," Hoeven said on the floor. “The bill we are considering today — and will be voting on later today — fixes the COLA problem. That’s good. That’s what we want to do. That's what I believe the vast majority of the members in this body want to do. We should pass this bill, and I believe we will."