WASHINGTON — Rep. Michele Bachmann today dropped a proposed cut to veterans benefits following a large outcry from veterans organizations, saying in a statement posted to her official House website that “the problem of government spending must be solved, but not on the backs of our nation’s war heroes.”
Bachmann had suggested the reduction early last week as part of a $423 billion cuts package she released. Her intent, she said, was to spur other lawmakers to release lists of cuts of their own and begin a discussion on reducing the nation’s $1.5 trillion federal deficit.
What actually happened was that reporters and analysts, as with any major proposal, dug into her numbers and sought comment from those who would be impacted. And an article from a military-focused newspaper, owned by the Gannett chain and reprinted in several of their newspapers nationwide (including the St. Cloud Times), sparked a backlash.
“Such an ill-advised proposal is nothing short of heartless,” said David Gorman, Washington executive director of the group Disabled American Veterans. “It is unconscionable that while our nation is at war someone would even think of forcing our wounded warriors to sacrifice even more than they already have. Their injuries and disabilities were the result of their service to the nation, and our nation must not shirk its responsibilities toward them. How do you tell a veteran who has lost a limb that he or she has not sacrificed enough? Yet Rep. Bachmann wants to do just that.”
Several Bachmann allies have pointed out since then, mostly privately, that Bachmann shouldn’t have been pilloried because, in their words, at least she had the guts to release a plan at all. And that’s a fair point to make — for she’s one of just a few lawmakers from either party who have listed any sizable specific cuts at all.
At the time she released the proposal, we wrote Bachmann’s list of cuts would likely “serve as an object lesson in how tough it’ll be for Congress to make any meaningful budget cuts over the next few years.” Furthermore, we added, “the politics of passing something like this are immensely challenging because every single cut can be traced directly back to a spending beneficiary who stands to specifically lose out if the cut gets passed.”
Instead, it seems, the lesson learned on Capitol Hill has been that it’s more politically advisable to shirk the responsibility for cuts, as seen in the recent debate about ending the 1099 reporting requirements in the new health reform law, which would remove about $22 billion in revenues over 10 years.
An amendment to repeal the 1099 provision and make up the difference through taxing oil and gas companies failed 44-54. An amendment to let the Obama administration figure it out (and take the blame for any nasty cuts) sailed through 81-17.