The U.S. Senate is poised to pass a bipartisan budget agreement already approved by the House, but it will be without the support of Mississippi’s two Republican senators.
Sen. Thad Cochran on Tuesday joined Sen. Roger Wicker in announcing his opposition to the bill.
Wicker since last week has been among a group of senators opposing the bill in part because it curtails growth in cost-of-living benefits for military retirees under the age of 62. Wicker offered an amendment, cosponsored by Cochran, to remove the provision, but it failed 46-54 on a largely party-line vote Tuesday.
Earlier, Wicker, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., along with 14 military and veterans service organizations, held a press conference calling the reduction in scheduled military retirement benefits “unconscionable” and urging its removal.
Despite the amendment’s defeat, the effort to review the provision in 2014 appeared to be gaining some bipartisan momentum.
Cochran, meanwhile, said the budget agreement negotiated by Rep. Paul Ryan., R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and passed overwhelmingly in the House, was “well-intentioned but falls short of the mark.”
Said Cochran: “Representative Ryan and Senator Murray made a good-faith effort to negotiate an agreement that would return some sense of order and transparency to the federal budget process. I appreciate the difficulty of that effort, but don’t believe the agreement does enough about the most serious structural budget problems facing our nation.”
The two-year agreement avoids further across-the-board budget cuts next year, eliminates the prospect of further government shutdowns and reduces the deficit by $23 billion over 10 years with no tax increases. However, it increases spending in the short term.
While the House Republican leadership was strongly supportive of the bill, Tea Party conservatives have criticized it as not going far enough.
Cochran’s Tea Party-backed Republican primary opponent in 2014, state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville, opposes the agreement.
A 67-33 procedural vote Tuesday made Senate passage of the bill later this week – possibly as early as today – a virtual certainty.