Military Retirement Restoration Actby Senator Richard Blumenthal
Posted on 2014-01-08
BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, I am very proud to follow my colleague
from New Hampshire and thank her for her leadership in offering the
Military Retirement Restoration Act, which I am very pleased to support
as an amendment to the unemployment insurance extension bill.
For all the reasons I have stated, and others have expressed even more powerfully than I, this bill makes sense. We must extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. The merits of this bill are absolutely indisputable and undeniable. This bill offers a critically important opportunity, and we ought to seize it to correct and fix a defect in the budget agreement that was reached by the very excellent work of our colleague Senator Murray and Congressman Ryan, and that was passed overwhelmingly by a bipartisan majority in this body.
It was an agreement that advanced and enhanced economic certainty. It had many advantages, but it also was far from perfect. Its flaws included a cut in military retiree benefits. These benefits were cut by provisions to that agreement that was approved by this body, with many reservations and regrets, and now we ought to seize this opportunity to correct that defect as this measure offers us through an amendment.
We can pay for it. It can be budget neutral, if we simply close a certain egregious corporate tax loophole as Senator Shaheen has suggested. I want to emphasize again what Senator Shaheen said so well. We can think of a lot of different ways to pay for the $6.5 billion that is necessary to correct these cuts in military retiree benefits. What is beyond question is the need to fix this flaw. It is a flaw that not only diminishes in monetary terms the benefits these retirees need and deserve, it also dishonors the service and sacrifice they have made. What better opportunity than now, as we deal with the extension of unemployment benefits in a measure that deserves overwhelming support just as the budget deal received, to correct this flaw.
There has been a lot of misinformation and confusion about exactly what the Murray-Ryan agreement did to military retirement benefits, and there is a need to address in the longer term the system that provides for retiree benefits, to make it serve better the interests of our retirees, our veterans, our patriots who have given so much to our Nation. But right now, in these next few days, beyond any kind of question or doubt, is the need to correct this defect and to follow through on the understanding that many of us had, including myself, that in fact we would correct this defect.
I supported the budget agreement with the understanding, as Chairman Levin of Michigan made clear, the Senate would work this year, as soon as possible, to stop the 1-percent reduction in the cost of living adjustments for military retirees until the age of 62 that would take effect in December of 2015. December, 2015 of that year is a long way off. There may be other opportunities to correct this flaw--the reduction in retiree benefits--but let's do it now. Let's not delay in restoring the benefits that these retirees need and deserve.
So I urge my colleagues to join in this effort, paying for this change by making sure companies managed and controlled in the United States can't avoid U.S. taxes simply by claiming foreign status. Many of us have long advocated closing this loophole. It seems to me a reasonable approach, far better than taking away the child tax credit for poor migrant families.
Ultimately, the pay-for issue, the offset question, should be resolved, and I believe it will be, if not in this act then in the Omnibus appropriations bill we will address next and then make sure we keep faith. We must assure that we will keep faith with these retirees who have given and served so much.
As Senator Shaheen has said, most Americans would agree this kind of tax avoidance is unfair, and we ought to [[Page S129]] close this tax loophole rather than reducing military retiree benefits. What all Americans would agree with is that we should keep faith and leave no veteran behind, making sure this amendment is voted on and approved and given legal force and effect so we correct and fix the flaw in the budget agreement that has disallowed and dishonored the obligation we owe these retirees.
I thank the Presiding Officer, and I yield the floor.