House lawmakers slam Biden resistance to junior troop pay raise

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, slammed President Biden as “offensive and wrong” for objecting to a provision in the annual defense bill that grants a major pay raise to junior enlisted troops.

The White House Office of Management and Budget said in a Tuesday statement that it “strongly opposes making a significant, permanent change to the basic pay schedule” before an upcoming military compensation review.

Rogers, however, said the nearly 20 percent pay raise for junior troops was included in the 2025 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) because many service members “are relying on food banks” and other benefits to eat.

“Republicans and Democrats on our committee agreed this is unacceptable,” Rogers said in a statement. “Instead of supporting this commonsense proposal, President Biden is once again turning his back on our servicemembers. I believe wholeheartedly that the brave Americans who serve in our Armed Forces shouldn’t have to worry about making ends meet, unfortunately President Biden doesn’t feel the same.”

Rogers argued the raise was based on research from a bipartisan Quality of Life Panel, led by Reps. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), which released a report in April on how to improve the lives of military families.

This year’s NDAA is actually named the Servicemember Quality of Life Improvement and National Defense Authorization Act to underscore the focus on improving conditions for military service members and their families. The bill passed out of the Armed Services Committee with a bipartisan vote, especially on the quality-of-life recommendations.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the committee, told the House Rules Committee on Tuesday that the “people are irreplaceable” in the military and the bill “goes after” improving their lives.

“Many of our junior enlisted are struggling to afford housing. Housing costs have gone up, their pay has not kept up,” he said. “This is a bold step to try to make sure we support them.”

The White House said that last year’s NDAA included a 5.2 percent basic pay increase, the largest since 2003, along with another 5.4 percent increase for a basic housing allowance. The 2025 NDAA budget request asks for a 4.5 percent increase as well.

“If the President’s FY 2025 request is enacted, servicemembers will have received a 15 percent basic pay increase in just three years,” the White House said in a statement outlining opposition to the provision. “The House proposed changes would lead to pay compression in some parts of the enlisted military basic pay table.”

The House is taking up the $883.7 billion 2025 NDAA this week, while the Senate is also now weighing its own version of the legislation. Both bills will have to pass the full House and Senate chamber and then be reconciled together in conference.

The House NDAA faces some resistance as Democrats object to some amendments that target the ongoing culture wars in America.

The White House is opposed to several provisions of the bill, including one preventing the military from testing applicants for marijuana and another prohibiting any committee or body overseeing diversity, equity and inclusion at Defense Department schools.

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