RELEASE:

Budget Compromise Increases Troop Funding & Reforms Social Security without Raising Taxes

Fiscal Agreement Also Helps to Protect Mississippi’s 155th Brigade

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., has voted for a budget agreement that would provide a two-year framework for federal spending. The bill includes additional funding for America’s military, the first significant reform to Social Security since 1983, and a repeal of Obamacare’s auto-enrollment mandate.

“Responsible policy-making in a divided government requires give-and-take,” Wicker said. “While not perfect, the compromise does deliver important progress on issues that Republicans have long sought – increased defense spending, entitlement reform, and repealing Obamacare. It is important to remember that these accomplishments were achieved without raising taxes. The agreement also provides budget certainty for the next two years, allowing Congress to return to a normal appropriations process. The additional defense and domestic spending is offset by savings in other parts of the budget. Real progress has been made in lowering overall appropriation levels. As compared to the spending caps that were set by the Ryan budget in 2011, discretionary spending will be $56 billion less in 2016 and $70 billion less in 2017.

“Closer to home, passage of this measure protects the Mississippi National Guard’s 155th Brigade Combat Team from being deactivated due to looming defense budget cuts. Eliminating the threat of these spending reductions ensures that America’s future preparedness is not abandoned by shortsighted decisions.”

The proposal, H.R. 1314, passed the Senate by a vote of 64-35. The House of Representatives approved the bill by a vote of 266-167.

Highlights of the legislation:

Adjusts the spending caps by $80 billion over two years – $50 billion the first year and $30 billion in the second year equally divided between defense and non-defense spending;
Fully offsets all budget cap relief with mandatory spending cuts and other savings;
Enacts the most substantial reforms to Social Security in almost a generation, resulting in $168 billion in long-term savings;
Protects the American economy from the threat of a default; and
Repeals Obamacare’s auto-enrollment mandate that forces workers automatically to enroll into employer-sponsored health care coverage that they may not want or need.

The agreement also provides a path for Congress to complete its work on this year’s “National Defense Authorization Act” (NDAA) and a defense appropriations bill.

Together, these measures would impact Mississippi in the following ways:

Columbus/Meridian: Wicker succeeded in securing a provision to the defense authorization bill to authorize $187.2 million in procurement for 28 UH-72A Light Utility Helicopters (LUH). These helicopters would be used to replace the Army’s legacy aviation training aircraft. Another provision would allow student pilots to have adequate training and flying hours at Columbus Air Force Base and Meridian Naval Air Station.

Gulfport-Biloxi: Supports a new Army National Guard Aviation Depot at the Gulfport-Biloxi Airport, as well as the continued mission of over 11,000 Americans who work at Keesler Air Force Base.

Pascagoula: Wicker included a provision in NDAA to authorize $476 million in advance procurement for an additional America-class amphibious assault ship, as well as $250 million in research and development funding for the next generation of amphibious ships. The nation’s current amphibious fleet of 30 ships falls short of Global Combatant Commander requirements, which call for more than 50 amphibious ships. The measure also authorizes more than $3.5 billion for the construction of two new DDG-51 destroyers, $550 million for a new LPD-17 amphibious ship, and approximately $476 million for a replacement LHA amphibious ship.

Starkville: Completes the Army Reserve Center for equipping and training military personnel.

Tupelo: Recognizes the importance of the Army’s Apache helicopters and the Tupelo Army Aviation Support Facility.

Ensuring the Vitality of the National Guard: NDAA includes provisions supported by Wicker to maintain National Guard personnel levels and prevent additional Apache helicopters from being transferred away from the Army National Guard. Last year’s defense bill included a provision authorized by Wicker and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that created a commission to study the future of the Army. This independent commission is required to make a recommendation on size and force structure to Congress by February 2016.

Preventing Military Suicide: NDAA includes provisions based on the “Military and Veterans Mental Health Provider Assessment Act of 2015” coauthored by Wicker and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., requiring the Secretary of Defense to ensure that all primary care and mental health care providers of the Department of Defense receive evidence-based training on the recognition, assessment, and management of individuals at risk for suicide.

Ensuring Religious Freedom in the Military: Finally, the defense bill includes a Wicker proposal to encourage the Department of Defense to continue supporting service members’ rights to express sincerely held religious beliefs.

10/30/15