Veterans groups joined Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, and others on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., to urge senators not to approve a budget deal that includes about $6 billion in cuts to retirement benefits for military retirees.
Graham will hold another news conference with the veterans' groups after the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the budget deal today.
The cuts, which the senators said in a letter would reduce cost-of-living benefits for "many military retires under age 62" by one percent, were included in the budget deal passed last week by the U.S. House with bipartisan support, including votes from Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, and U.S. Reps. Joe Wilson, R-Springdale and Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach. The budget deal, resulting from a special committee led by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, has been lauded for reducing the deficit without raising taxes.
The senators were joined by representatives of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Military Officers Association of America, National Guard Association of the United States, the National Association for Uniformed Services, and the National Defense Committee, according to Graham's office.
At the news conference, Graham said:
"Here's the question. Is it this choice between keeping the government open and screwing all those military retirees? Is that the right choice? How about doing both? How about protect the veteran and the military retiree and keep the government open?"
Graham continued, "We've got until January 15. If you put 10 people in a room, we could solve this in about two hours. No, we're in a big hurry around here to show you how functional we are. Even when we're functional we're dysfunctional."
In the U.S. House, Reps. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens, Trey Gowdy, R-Greenville, Mick Mulvaney, R-Indian Land, and Mark Sanford, R-Charleston, voted against the budget deal.
Video from Tuesday's news conference: