Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on his vote against the Ryan-Murray budget agreement: The bill passed 64-36.
“I voted against the budget agreement because it avoids the federal government’s most urgent need: reducing the growth of runaway entitlement spending. Instead, it spends savings that should be used to strengthen Medicare, pensions, and the air transportation system. It is particularly troubling that the budget agreement takes money from pensions in a way that treats military retirees worse than the civilian federal employees.
“It would have been better to pay for this agreement with a small part of the $1 trillion in entitlement savings that Sen. Corker and I have identified in our ‘Fiscal Sustainability Act,’ or with entitlement savings suggested in the president’s budget.
“Although I can’t support it, I appreciate the efforts of Rep. Ryan and Sen. Murray to bring certainty to the budget process, which is why I voted Tuesday to allow a Senate vote on their agreement, which had passed the House with two-to-one Republican support.”
In addition to its failure to address growth of mandatory entitlement spending – such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – Alexander cited four major objections to the budget agreement. Alexander objected to the agreement because it:
- Cuts $22 billion in 2022 and 2023 in Medicare reimbursements to doctors and other health care providers, for savings that may never materialize.
- Increases pension premiums paid by employers to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. by $7.9 billion, to pay for unrelated spending.
- Cuts the annual cost-of-living benefits for military retirees under the age of 62 by 1 percent, to pay for unrelated spending. This would impact current retirees, as opposed to new hires as in the case of changes to civilian federal employee pensions.
- Increases by $12.6 billion airport security fees – which generally get passed on to airline passengers – to pay for unrelated spending. Such fees should be used to improve airport security.
In February, Senators Alexander and Corker introduced the “Fiscal Sustainability Act,” S. 11, "to reduce the growth of entitlement spending (Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) by nearly $1 trillion in the next decade in order to improve the programs’ solvency."
Senator Alexander said that bill incorporates many of the recommendations made by President Obama’s Debt Commission (Simpson-Bowles) as well as by former Republican Senator Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin, budget director for former President Clinton.