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Roger W.
Republican MS

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  • Nomination of Susan P. Watters to Be United States District Judge for the District of Montana

    by Senator Roger F. Wicker

    Posted on 2013-12-11

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    Read More about Nomination of Susan P. Watters to Be United States District Judge for the District of Montana

    WICKER. Mr. President, we are now on Calendar No. 349, Susan P. Watters of Montana to be U.S. district judge for the District of Montana. I note on the Executive Calendar this nomination came before the Senate from the committee on September 19. It is my understanding that this nominee was cleared by our side of the aisle and could have been brought up on any Monday afternoon by a voice vote.

    I think Members might be wondering and certainly people within the sound of my voice tonight might be wondering why we are spending time tonight in a protracted debate on three district court nominees--Landya B. McCafferty of New Hampshire, Brian Morris or Montana, and now Susan Watters of Montana to be confirmed--when there has never been a district court judge in the history of our Republic prevented from serving because of a filibuster.

    To me, we have gotten to this point because of the heavyhanded overreach of the majority in trampling on the rights of folks on our side of the aisle. We find ourselves--temporarily, I hope--in the minority. That has a way of changing from time to time. But it is the sort of overreach that I am reminded of from 2009 when a supermajority in both Houses rammed through ObamaCare and caused all of the grief that we currently are facing and that real, live Americans are having with the so-called Affordable Care Act.

    It actually might be in one way beneficial that we are spending this time on something that could have been done so quickly because it gives us an opportunity to point out that we should be right now, at this moment, working on the National Defense Authorization Act and also on the budget--two matters that are pending that must be addressed by this Senate before we can go home and take a day or two with our constituents and loved ones for the Christmas holiday. But it gives me an opportunity, as the budget comes over tonight from the House of Representatives, to point out one of the most onerous provisions in the budget, which has just passed with sweeping bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.

    I will stand before this body tonight and say that I cannot vote and will not vote for this budget, and I hope that even yet Members of the Congress and the American public will listen to the broken promise that is contained in this budget that will be coming forward. We will perhaps get back to the nomination in a moment.

    We should note two things about this budget. It asks for an additional contribution for pensions for Federal employees, but it does not do it to current Federal employees. As you enter the Federal service after the beginning of the year, you pay an additional amount that is withheld from your paycheck for your pension. That is hard to do, it is distasteful to do, but at least it is fair to the people who join the Federal service under one set of rules.

    On the other hand, the budget that comes over to us from the House of Representatives and that I will oppose when it eventually does come up for a vote hopefully next week does to retired servicemen what we were persuaded not to do to Federal employees: It breaks a promise to retired service people who have already served their time. This is what it does. It says to every retired servicemember under the age of 62: You are not going to get your COLA anymore. Each year until you get to be 62, you are going to get your COLA, less 1 percent. I can tell you [[Page S8758]] that this is not a matter of nickels and dimes to the people who have stepped forward, joined the military, volunteered for a career in the military, done their 20, and now are going to be told, if this budget passes next week: We are sorry. We are changing the rules way after the game has begun.

    I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a letter to me from VADM Norb Ryan, U.S. Navy, Retired, president of the Military Officers Association of America.

    There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: Dear Senator Wicker: On behalf of the over 380,000 members of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), I am writing to express our strong opposition to the proposal within the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 which penalizes future uniformed service retirees and current retirees under the age of 62.

    Even though the budget deal would help ease the harmful effects of sequestration for two years for the Department of Defense--something we support--doing so on the backs of service members who serve our Nation for over 20 years is just shameful.

    Reducing working age retiree annual cost-of-living adjustment by one percent until they reach the age of 62 is simply a tax.

    Service members who retire at the 20 year point would feel the full negative financial effects of the proposal by reducing their retired pay by nearly 20 percent by the time they reach age 62.

    For example, an Army Sergeant First Class (E-7) retiring this year with 20 years of service would see an average loss of over $3,700 per year by the time he or she reaches age 62--a cumulative loss of nearly $83,000. For a Lieutenant Colonel (O-5), the average annual loss would be over $6,200-- a cumulative loss of over $124,000.

    This proposal also flies in the face of the principles that guide the ongoing congressionally-mandated review of military compensation and retirement.

    Congress wisely removed the BRAC-like, ``fast-track'' rule so that the appropriate committees would have adequate time to assess impacts that any recommended changes to the retirement system would have on retention and readiness.

    In addition, the guiding principles to the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) include a grandfather clause to protect current retirees and service members from any changes to their retirement which this proposal blatantly disregards.

    Currently serving members look at how they, their families, retirees, and survivors have been treated when making career choices. If Congress arbitrarily cuts the retirement benefit for those who have served their country for over 20 years, there could be an unintended impact on uniformed service career retention, and ultimately, national security.

    Sincerely, VADM Norb Ryan, USN (Ret), President, Military Officers Association of America.

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