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Feeling heat, Rep. Doug Lamborn looks to restore raises for military retirees

January 13, 2014 Updated: January 13, 2014 at 10:20 am
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U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn supported a December budget compromise that boosted defense spending but cut pay raises for military retirees.

And the Colorado Springs Republican has been getting an earful from voters since.

"It's quite possibly the most difficult vote I have taken in Congress," said Lamborn, who is beginning his seventh year in Washington.

Although Lamborn's vote helped secure an extra $31 billion for the Pentagon over two years, it will limit cost of living retirement increases for veterans under the age of 62 through a formula that shaves a percentage point from the consumer price index, a measure of inflation.

The new pay increase formula could cost a 42-year-old military retiree 20 percent of his retirement pay over 20 years.

Lamborn, whose 5th Congressional District includes five military bases and one of the highest concentrations of military retirees in America, says he's working to reverse the cuts.

"I have heard a lot of concern about that," Lamborn said.

Lamborn is so dedicated to restoring the retiree raises that he's willing to consider, at least in theory, boosting the deficit to do it. That's a big step for the Republican who supported shutting down the government in a bid for fiscal restraint.

"It may come to that," he said. "To me, it's of critical importance. If there is an offset, we should find it for the sake of fiscal responsibility."

Offset is the possibly the most popular word in Congress these days. It refers to the thought that for every budget boost there must be a commensurate cut somewhere else.

Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, who opposed the December budget deal for reasons including the retirement cut, says if retirees get theirs, something else must take a shave.

"I think we can find an offset," he said.

The offset of the moment is a Lamborn-backed plan that would tighten Child Tax Credit requirements, and shift the savings to military retirees. The measure, HR3788, would require parents to present a Social Security number of each child claimed for the purposes of the tax credit.

Lamborn said he's hopeful that the bill will hit the House floor soon and get a favorable reception in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Until something gets done, the retirees will remain in loud revolt.

"People all over the country are definitely hearing from veterans," Lamborn said.

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