The piece I quoted Saturday from the Boston Globe noted that Kerry had sent a letter to Bush on Friday, saying that "he was “extremely disappointed” by the White House position on the pay raise, saying it stands “in direct contrast to the will of the American people who support all the efforts to support our troops.”"
Today, Senator Kerry asked Bush to back off his plan to cut a proposed military pay raise. Kerry also asked Bush not to cut a proposed benefit for surviving spouses, which Congress and veterans groups say would help grieving families with a $40 month benefit to help cover expenses when a loved one is killed in action. Last week, the White House opposed both of those provisions in the FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Bill.
“It’s unacceptable that this White House continues to choose more tax breaks for the richest Americans and less pay and fewer benefits for our military families,” Senator Kerry said. “Our Democratic Congress has put forth a plan to give our troops a raise at a time of war, and no White House opposition will stand in the way of our commitment to our military. Our troops make incredible sacrifices for our country and we owe them a pay raise and benefits that make it clear we honor their sacrifice. We will fight for this pay raise for our troops until it becomes a reality.”
The Office of Management and Budget said that the House bill’s moves to increase military pay by .5 percent (from 3.0 to 3.5 percent) and give a $40 monthly benefit for surviving spouses and military families were unnecessary. On the same day, the White House expressed opposition to the FY 2008 Budget Resolution Conference Report because it failed to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
Last year’s pay increase for members of the uniformed services was just 2.2 percent, the lowest since 1993. Congress has made a commitment to keep pay raises for the military ahead of private sector pay raises.
Kerry is the author of the Military Family Bill of Rights, which has become law. Kerry’s Bill increased the death benefit for surviving spouses and families of troops who die in action to $250,000 and extended the amount of time they can remain in military housing to one full year, along with increasing TRICARE benefits and promoting better care for those suffering from PTSD and other mental illness.
Below is text of the letter Kerry sent Friday:
May 18, 2007
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20007
Dear Mr. President:
We are all proud of our men and women in the American military who continue to perform magnificently in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. They represent the best that this country has to offer, and America owes them and their families a special debt of honor and gratitude. In light of their sacrifice, I ask you to change your position and support a 3.5 percent increase in military pay and an increase in the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance to help American military families.
On May 16, the Office of Management and Budget’s Statement of Administration Policy for the House FY 2008 National Defense Authorization bill opposes Section 644 of the bill, which would pay a monthly Special survivor indemnity allowance of $40 from the Department of Defense Military Retirement Fund, calling the existing benefits “sufficient”. The Statement of Administration Policy also “strongly opposes” Sections 601 and 606 of the House bill, which provide a 0.5 percent increase in military pay above the President’s proposed 3.0 percent across-the-board pay increase, calling it “unnecessary”.
I am extremely disappointed in these decisions. This position fails to honor our military families who have made the ultimate sacrifice. It also stands in direct contrast to the will of the American people who support all efforts to support our troops.
Most disappointing, on the same day your position on a military pay increase was announced, the Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman expressed opposition to the FY 2008 Budget Resolution Conference Report because it failed to extend tax cuts to provide billions for the wealthiest in our country.
Those who have stood for us should know that we stand with them, today and always. These provisions can do something to ease their burden--but truly supporting our troops requires that we act not just as individuals, but as a nation.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
John F. Kerry
Tomorrow, Senator John Kerry and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel will hold a press conference to respond to President Bush’s opposition to a 3.5 percent military pay increase for American troops. The press conference will be held in the Senate T.V. and Radio Press Gallery at 11:30 am est.