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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Senator Inhofe On Cuts To Military Pay, Benefits, Housing

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Senator James Inhofe, a frequent guest on the show and one with whom I usually and wholeheartedly agree, appeared at the start of the show and we have a sharp disagreement over the NDAA announced today which cuts the expected military pay hike from 1.8% to 1%, reduces the troops’ housing allowance to inflation minus 1% (a direct hit on most military families) and forces a co-pay for prescriptions on all military families.

Basically, the lame duck Congress is finding the money to pay for the Iraq and Syria operations out of the hides of the uniformed troops fighting the war.

I hope most GOPers vote against this bill and that some GOP senator(s) filibuster it.  It is a shame that House Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon is ending his tenure in Congress by going along with this charade.  He should have refused.  The House could and should still refuse.

The interview with Senator Inhofe:

Audio:

12-02hhs-inhofe

Transcript:

HH: The news I’m going to focus on a lot today, very, very disappointing, the National Defense Authorization Act unveiled by the lame duck Congress today is going to cut the pay raise for the military. It’s going to impose caps on their basic housing allowance. It’s going to impose co-pays on their pharmacy. It’s about a $5 billion dollar hit on the uniformed services, and I can’t believe the Republicans are going along with it. But joining me now is Senator James Inhofe, who’s a member on Armed Services, a friend of this show. It’s always good to talk to you, Senator. I’m just really disappointed in this NDAA.

JI: Well, Hugh, it’s not really that bad. If you could have seen where it started, and these are very, very modest cuts. They’re, now I’m not supporting it, and I oppose that. But the NDA, people have to understand, I know they don’t, and you do. But that’s the one bill that for 53 consecutive years has passed. It’s the one bill that is a must-passed bill. Now it’s particularly troubling right now, because we’re in an administration who doesn’t think we need a military to start with, and so we haven’t had the cooperation from the White House. But we actually, now I don’t mind, I want to make sure people know how we got to this point. We passed our bill out on May 22nd. The House passed their bill from the House of Representatives on May 22nd. That’s when we should have brought it up. Harry Reid would not let us bring the bill up until right now, we’re talking about it. And so the question was whether we’re going to have a NDAA bill.

HH: Senator…

JI: But what a lot of our listeners don’t know is that if we don’t have one, and December 31st gets here, then we’re going to have hazard pay eliminated, we’re not going to be able to do a lot of the provisions that are one year provisions. For example…

HH: But Senator, you could always restore that in the new year, and I have to give voice to the people who have been writing me all day. They are pissed. And they are so upset that Republicans have agreed to this in order just to keep the record going. They really, I hope some Republican stands up and filibusters it. Maybe it will be you, because these men and women, I just finished reading Toby Harnden’s book, he’s going to be on today, they’re struggling with PTSD, they’re struggling with multiple deployments. They’ve got no money, no disposable income, and basically, what the lame duck Congress is doing is paying for the war in Iraq and Syria by cutting active duty servicemen’s benefits.

JI: And we don’t like it. We don’t like it.

HH: Then don’t vote for it.

JI: The President, no, what you don’t know, Hugh, and I have not seen you this upset for a long time. Normally, we’re both upset on the same thing. What the difference is, we have to have a bill. And this bill is one that when we started out with the Obama administration, how many people who are listening to us right now are aware that in the first five years of his administration he spent $120 billion dollars on global warming to help other countries to do these things? Look, this is the reason that he has starved the military. I remember talking to you on your show six years ago when I went over to Afghanistan and saw what he was going to do to the military. That’s when he did away with our only 5th generation of fighter, the F-22, did away with our lift capacity, the C-17, with our future combat system, did away with the ground-based Interceptor in Poland, which is the only thing that we have to stop something coming from Iran. We’re talking about huge things.

HH: I know that, and Senator, I just don’t think you should go along.

JI: And here I am sitting here trying to support the military.

HH: I think you guys should dig in…I think you guys should dig in and say damn, no, we’re not going to do this, we are not going to balance the Pentagon’s cuts on the backs of the military. And if you have to shut down the government, do it for the military.

JI: Oh, I don’t mind shutting down the government.

HH: And if you don’t get your NDAA…

JI: I’m not going to have the kids that are over there risking their lives today to be all of a sudden…let me just mention one little thing in here that you’re not aware of. One of the provisions that would be dropped if we didn’t have a bill would be the reenlistment bonuses for flyers. If you take an aviator in the Air Force who is qualified for F-22, that’s the top, you have a choice. Either you give him his bonus, or we have to retrain someone. A bonus is a ten year bonus of $250,000 dollars, $25,000 dollars a year. If we have to retrain someone, it’s $17 million dollars.

HH: And I’m all for doing that.

JI: That’s how significant these things are.

HH: Senator, but that doesn’t mean you can’t just stand there and say we’re not going to give up the bonuses, and we’re not going to take the cuts out of this, Mr. President, and make…no one fought for this. No one went public. No one stood in the well of the Senate and said hell, no, and I can’t understand why Republicans won’t call the President on this, won’t call Carl Levin on this? I can’t believe, I really, I cannot simply believe that Buck McKeon rolled over.

JI: Well, the reason, Hugh, you’ve got to understand this, the reason is that we couldn’t get it on the floor. Sure, we can yell and scream. We made speeches on the floor. But we can never get the bill on the floor after we had it out of committee on the 22nd of May.

HH: All you have to do is wait until January.

JI: Now if you can’t, under our rules, you can’t bring the bill up. It has to be the majority leader.

HH: But on January 6th, you can. That’s why I do not understand. I think it’s because of the vanity of the Congress not wanting to pass this bill for the first time in 54 years because of Harry Reid. And I understand institutional vanity. But I do not understand putting $5 billion price tag on institutional vanity. You guys should just say no and absolutely turn down this, it’s outrageous to do this to these kids.

JI: Well, be it an outrage to do to these kids, for them not to have their bonus, not have hazard pay, not to, all these things that will terminate, terminate on the 31st. We wouldn’t have any choice.

HH: And you will restore it on the 6th.

JI: Now we would go in, if we, and I’m, you know, one of the commitments that we have is this has never, not going to happen again, because we can preclude it from happening. There’s one reason it happened, and that was we couldn’t bring the bill up on the floor.

HH: You know, I’m going to tell Ron Johnson I think he’s crazy running for reelection to vote for this thing. I think any Republican who doesn’t filibuster this is crazy, and it’s because that six days does not matter to me, and you can restore all that money. Am I not right, Senator? You can restore all that lost money that you’re worried about on January 6th. You can pass a bill in regular order that’s an NDAA that does not cut the troops and send it to the President.

JI: What is now scheduled is to start setting up the committees, getting the people on subcommittees. It would be probably the 25th or so of January before we could do it. And did you know that in February, we start the new bill for Fiscal Year 2016? I’m, you know, all I’m saying is you’ve got to have, I’m in a different position than you are. We have to have, support these guys. Look, I’m the guy that goes over and spend New Year’s Eve with them in Pakistan. And I’m totally devoted to these kids that are out there.

HH: But you know what happens when the basic housing allowance for an E-3 doesn’t keep up with inflation. I talked to Marlon the Marine, who’s my associate producer out there, who spent four years in the Marine Corps, did combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. And when you hit the basic housing allowance, you’re hitting the wife at home. They can’t keep up with inflation, and it’s all because you guys wouldn’t stand and fight. And I think they would have folded if anyone had made an issue about this, but you guys, honestly, where….

JI: Oh, no. All right, now I’ve got to interrupt you, Hugh.

HH: Go ahead.

JI: What do you think was done to the housing allowance? What has been told to you?

HH: You have reduced it 1% under inflation. Their rise will be 1% less than inflation by market.

JI: Okay.

HH: Am I right about that?

JI: Yeah, it’s 1%. The reason I say that is because it started out being 7%.

HH: Well, just because you stopped the pain, you know, I’m glad you guys fought them off. But why didn’t you take it to the public? You would win this. We won this last year. Lindsey Graham won this. You could turn around right now and scuttle this deal and win this, Senator. Everybody stands with the troops. They hate this small beer crap going after the young kids in the military who fought this war in order to fund the President’s, I don’t know, you know the stuff that we spend money on that’s ridiculous at the Pentagon.

JI: Oh, I know it is. Hugh, you’re singing my song. It’s exactly, and that’s what I have said more than anyone else on the floor of the United States Senate, how much we are blowing, and of course, I concentrate on what he’s spending on global warming and all of his environmental stuff. That’s what’s killing us, militarily. That’s the reason we’re in the position we’re in, in addition all those systems that I told you six years ago that he cut to start his disarming of America. He has taken out $487 billion dollars since that time. And so he goes through sequestration. That’s, any of the generals will tell you, we cannot do that. Right now, this is the first time, look, I just got back from Ukraine. I was over there. The wonderful thing happened over there. Poroshenko, they had the greatest election in the history. It’s the first time in 96 years that he communists will not have one seat in their parliament. It’s a huge success. We’re over there right now trying to do something for them. We don’t have the resources to do it, because of this administration.

HH: And we’re sending three thousand kids to fight Ebola in Africa, and while they’re over there, we’re insisting that their spouses and their children increase their co-pays on their prescriptions.

JI: And I was the one that was yelling and screaming about that, and was unable to stop that from happening.

HH: Well, you guys didn’t, why didn’t you go to the people?

JI: Well, at that time, now keep in mind, at that time, and even today until January, the Democrats had control of the Senate.

HH: But you can turn around right now. You can walk over to Carl Levin, Senator Inhofe, and say Carl, deal’s off. I’m hearing from the military. We’re not doing this. I’m going to filibuster it, and I’m going to stop it. Would you do that? Because you can stop this.

JI: Well, that is over in the House right now. There are going to, and in fact, I think it may be already done, I don’t know. Where you and I differ is I’m not going to oppose the Senate, the bill. This is the one thing, if you read the Constitution, there are two things we’re supposed to be doing here. One is defending America, and that’s what this is all about, and the other thing is roads and highways. In Article I, Section 8, that’s all we’re supposed to be doing. But this administration, and I’ve been the one talking about this. And we’re to a point now where…

HH: That’s why, you know, Senator, that’s why you…

JI: …we’re now going to take over control of the Senate, and then we can do it right.

HH: You and Buck McKeon, you and Buck McKeon are the guys I expected to stop them looting the uniformed military, and you guys didn’t do it. I’m really, I just can’t believe this. I really…

JI: Well…

HH: …that I’m arguing with James Inhofe, who is a stalwart. You could still stop this, Senator. I hope you will. It’s outrageous.

JI: Thank you, Hugh.

HH: …that these kids are taking a cut at Christmas time. $200 bucks for an E-3, 21 year old next year in a basic housing allowance. Senator, thank you for joining me. I’m just very disappointed. I’m sorry it’s under these circumstances.

End of interview.

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