SHAHEEN: SAVINGS IN BUDGET SHOULD NOT COME AT THE EXPENSE OF MILITARY RETIREES

December 18, 2013

(Washington, DC) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke on the Senate floor this afternoon to call for passage of the bipartisan budget agreement which will create certainty for the economy, promote job creation and end the threat of a government shutdown.  Shaheen also highlighted legislation she introduced last night, the Military Retirement Restoration Act, which would undo a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for military retirees currently in the budget and replace those savings by closing offshore tax loopholes.

Below are Shaheen’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, this afternoon we will vote to pass a budget for the next two years. 

I support the budget because it provides certainty for businesses and the economy, replaces some of the reckless, across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, and ensures we won’t have another government shutdown.

The alternative – allowing this budget to fail and setting up another government shutdown – is simply unacceptable. 

We saw the impact that the government shutdown had on our economy, the people who depend on vital services, as well as our national defense and military readiness.

So while not perfect, the budget deal struck by Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Paul Ryan is a product of bipartisan compromise.

That’s something we need a lot more of in Washington these days – and it represents a small but important step forward for our government and our economy.

The budget we’re going to vote on today is not perfect.  It certainly isn’t the bill I would have written.

It does not close a single corporate tax loophole.  And it does not extend unemployment insurance, which will hurt people who lost their job through no fault of their own and will cost our economy 200,000 jobs.

And there are provisions included in the bill that I think are misguided and need to be fixed.  

But the fact is that this a step forward in addressing sequestration in a way that is absolutely critical to anybody who does business with the federal government or with companies and families who are dependent on services and on contracts with the federal government.  

I was at BAE Systems in Nashua, New Hampshire, on Monday and I heard from the employees there and from the leadership about how important it was to have a budget for the next two years to provide some certainty for the company.

The budget would provide certainty for them and that’s very important because one the things that we have heard on the defense side of the budget is that the cuts from sequestration are having a very detrimental impact on the readiness of our military, on our men and women who are serving, and on the men and women who work for the Department of Defense.  

We have seen it in New Hampshire at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, we saw the impact that the uncertainty as a result of sequestration was having on their ability to know what they’re going to be working on, and to be assured that the work will be there in the future.

We’ve seen it with our National Guard in New Hampshire where the training that they need to have to keep people current is being affected, where people were furloughed as the result of those sequestration cuts.

And this is legislation that will address that in a way that is critical to our national security and critical to the men and women who serve in our military.

There are provisions in the bill that I think need to be fixed.

For example, I am very concerned with the impact of this bill on military retirees and have come to the floor today to talk about how we can fix this provision. 

I’m disappointed that Congressman Ryan was so committed to including this provision in the compromise bill.

Today, I wanted to speak about an effort I’m working on with a number my colleagues here in the Senate to try and fix that provision, to try and address the negative impact that the bill might have on military retirees’ benefits.

The bill includes an unnecessary reduction in benefits for military retirees under the age of 62. 

There are plenty of other ways that we can find budgetary savings rather than cutting retirement benefits for the men and women who have served our nation in uniform. 

The good news is that this provision does not go into effect for another two years, so we have time to fix this. 

We’ve already heard from the Chairman of the Armed Service Committee that he’s interested in addressing this provision as take up the Defense Authorization Bill in the coming year.

But I’m ready to get to work right now to address this provision.

Yesterday, I introduced legislation – the Military Retirement Restoration Act – with fifteen of my colleagues to replace the military retiree benefit cuts by closing a tax loophole that some corporations use to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

These corporations set up shell entities in tax havens to avoid being considered an American company, even though they are controlled and operated on American soil.

I think most Americans would agree that this kind of tax avoidance is unfair and that we should close this tax loophole rather than reducing military retiree benefits.

This is just one idea.  I am open to other solutions, and hope we can work in a bipartisan way to replace these cuts to military retirees’ benefits in a smart way.

I hope we can move forward to end the uncertainty, to get the budget in place for two years, to make sure that we address the really devastating impacts that we have seen since sequestration.  

I stand ready to get to work and prevent these cuts from ever going into effect.

I yield the floor.