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House Republicans back cost-of-living adjustment for veterans while demanding huge cuts

The GOP’s Limit, Save, Grow Act would slash federal spending by 22% with no exceptions for veterans’ programs.

By Josh Israel - May 23, 2023
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President Joe Biden's administration is reaching for a deal with Republicans led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy as the nation faces a deadline as soon as June 1 to raise the country's borrowing limit, now at $31 trillion, to keep paying the nation's bills. Republicans are demanding steep spending cuts the Democrats oppose.
The U.S. Capitol is seen on Saturday, May 20, 2023, in Washington. President Joe Biden's administration is reaching for a deal with Republicans led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy as the nation faces a deadline as soon as June 1 to raise the country's borrowing limit, now at $31 trillion, to keep paying the nation's bills. Republicans are demanding steep spending cuts the Democrats oppose. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Monday that would increase benefits for veterans to match the cost of living. While the Republican majority backed the measure, it voted just weeks ago to slash all discretionary spending programs by 22%, with no exceptions for veterans benefits.

On a voice vote, at least two-thirds of the House voted to suspend the rules and pass the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2023, a bipartisan bill authored by Montana Sen. Jon Tester (D) that the Senate passed in March. The bill increases benefits for veterans with disabilities and their surviving dependents, starting in December, by the same amount as the Social Security Administration’s annual cost-of-living adjustment.

Two House Republicans spoke on the floor in favor of the bill, saying it was needed because goods and services are more expensive than they were a year ago.

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Mike Bost said:

Veterans should not have to worry whether they would be earning their benefits and that they can cover their basic needs. They should not have to choose between gas to get to work or groceries for their family, but unfortunately because of the Biden inflation problem that has occurred, out-of-control spending, this is a reality for thousands of veterans’ families. The least we can do for them is provide a cost-of-living adjustment this year so that they can continue to pay their bills and put food on their tables.

Rep. Morgan Luttrell (R-TX), chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee, said: “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in just one year, the Consumer Price Index has risen to 4.9%, with housing and gas prices at the front. This bill is crucial to ensure that veterans can keep pace with this widespread inflation.”

House Republicans have spent much of the past two years blaming President Joe Biden for inflation, though economic experts have said his policies had little to do with higher costs as the economy adjusted to supply chain issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and years of underinvestment.

At the same time, they have demanded that any increase in the debt ceiling — needed to avert a catastrophic default that could cause an economic recession — be paired with significant cuts in federal spending. On April 26, with no Democratic support, they passed the Limit, Save, Grow Act, which would cut all discretionary spending back to 2022 levels. The White House and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimate that the bill would necessitate spending cuts averaging about 22% on all programs covered in the federal budget, not taking into account that goods and services cost significantly more than they did during fiscal year 2022.

Both Bost and Luttrell voted for the Limit, Save, Grow Act.

Advocates for veterans and safety net programs have pointed out that the GOP bill did not include any language to indicate that the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration would be exempt from the estimated 22% cuts.

House Republicans responded by falsely claiming their legislation would not impact veterans.

The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act now goes to Biden for his signature. Even if the bill becomes law, however, the increases it provides could be wiped out by the GOP’s proposed cuts or a federal debt default.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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