Transcript: Sen. Mark Pryor’s floor speech on repealing the 1% COLA cut to military retirees – Feb. 11, 2014
Partial transcript of the floor speech by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) on S. 1963, the military retirement pay restoration bill that repeals Section 403 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, on Feb. 11, 2014:
…I want to thank my colleagues for their help and their support of the military retirement pay restoration bill that repeals Section 403 of the budget agreement that unfairly singles out our brave men and women in uniform.
The bottom line – this bill is about honoring the commitments we have made to our service members.
My state is the home of nearly 255,000 veterans. 255,000 veterans. Now, we only have a population of 3 million. So if you do the math on that per capita, we have a lot of veterans in my state. Very patriotic state.
And these brave men and women have put their lives on the line, and they’ve also put their lives on hold to serve this country often times in faraway places, far away from their homes and their families and their beloved country, to protect our nation and our way of life.
They have fulfilled their obligations and we need to fulfill ours.
Mr. President, just day after day, we get emails and letters and phone calls from Arkansas veterans and their families, and they talk about what the Senate is talking about today and that is whether we should fix this cost of living adjustment or not and even down to the details of whether we should pay for this or not.
Let me just read a few – I have eight Arkansans here that have written in in recent weeks.
Major Adam Smith of Sherwood said, “When I signed on 12 years ago, I swore an oath to defend my country – one that I’ve upheld through four combat deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. It pains me to see that my government is not keeping its faith in my oath. I have served and will continue to serve faithfully, but I want my government to properly compensate me for all the times I nearly made my wife a young widow.”
Second one is from Therese Wickoff [sp] of North Little Rock. She’s an employee of the VA and she’s married to someone in the military. She says, “I see our veterans everyday struggling.” She works at the VA. “I see our veterans everyday struggling. They serve and it is our duty to respect and take care of them.”
John Barnwell [sp] of Fort Smith says, “I spent a career in the U.S. Air Force defending this great country from all enemies. How could Congress even consider cutting veterans benefits when our sacrifices are the reason we’re even able to live in a free country?”
Senior Master Sergeant John W. Smith [sp] of Cabot writes in and he says, “I served my country for 28 years with the promise that once I completed my part, I would be given retirement for the rest of my life to include the cost of living increases. However, it appears the government has decided to change the promise made and not honor their part of the bargain.”
Sam Garland [sp] of Jacksonville says, “When I was enlisted, I was told if I did my time that I would receive retirement. Don’t take away this hard work promise.”
Marshall Harmon [sp] of Vilonia: “This is a military retirement that I worked extremely hard for and, in fact, earned. The documents that I was provided at the time of retirement assured me that my buying power would remain strong and consistent. Is seems that is just not the case.[Incomprehensible name] of Sherwood. He wrote in to say, “I am a military veteran of almost 15 years including two deployments to Iraq. I was an infantryman in the Marine Corps. I find it very frustrating that the reductions in benefits were taken from the very men and women who have served and protected the country.”
Bill Patrick [sp] of Mountain Home – and this will be the last one, Mr. President. I can go on for a long time. As you can tell I have a lot more of where these came from. Bill Patrick of Mountain Home says, “As a veteran of the U.S. Army, I am saddened by the provision in this bill that in essence penalizes those who have given the most for this great country of ours. Although I do realize the importance of keeping the government funded and running, I am opposed to the fact that we are doing it on the backs of those who have served honorably and long.”
Mr. President, I just want those words to sink in to my colleagues here in the Senate today. These are men and women from my state. You have the same type of folks in your state. They put on the uniform; they serve this country. This is not how we should repay them.
…We need to honor the commitments we’ve made to our veterans. This is no laughing matter. This isn’t politics. This isn’t a Democratic or Republican thing. This is an American thing.
You know what? When we make commitments to our veterans, if we cannot honor those commitments, we never should have made those in the first place.
You know, Mr. President, one of the things that I’m always reminded of when I think of our folks who serve this nation in the military, I think of this one verse that’s found in John 3:15. It says, “Greater love has no one than this – that someone laid down his life for his friends.”
I’ve been to a number of funerals. I’ve made a number of calls to these families right here. I don’t know how many people I’ve talked to who’ve lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan or in some other military operation somehow someway. And that’s the verse that I always remember because they’ve laid down their lives for their country.
And the thing about it is, Mr. President, is everyone else who puts on that uniform, by the very nature of them putting on the uniform, they made that commitment that they’re willing to lay down their life too. They are in harm’s way for us. I think it’s wrong for us to try to lower their benefits…
- WhatTheFolly.com: List of 94 Senators who voted to repeal the 1% cost of living adjustment (COLA) cut for military retirees
- senate.gov: Vote #26 on S. 1963 “A bill to repeal section 403 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013” on Feb. 10, 2014
- thomas.loc.gov: Bill summary of S. 1963 “A bill to repeal section 403 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013”
- cbo.gov: CBO estimate of S. 1963, A bill to repeal section 403 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (PDF)
Category: Congress, Current Events, Military, Politics, Social Services, Transcripts, U.S. · Tags: Arkansas, Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, COLA, Congress, cost of living adjustment, Defense Department, Democratic, Democratic Party, Democrats, drastic budget cuts, Mark Pryor, military, retirement, S. 1963, U.S., United States, US Senate, veterans