By Tammy Moore Teague
Third District Congressman Steve Womack joined other Republicans on Thursday, in voting against a federal amendment that would provide annuity payments to millitary widows and widowers. As it stands, the current law deprives surviving spouses $7,300 per year in income. These cuts remain necessary in the eyes of lawmakers as they work towards a budget.
The measure was only one of 26 amendments offered by Democrats. Womack co-sponsored a similar House bill despite his “no” vote. Also voting against the change was Representative Bruce Westerman. In total, 11 Democrats and three Republicans supported the proposed change; 18 Republicans opposed it. Just as the measure came up for vote, Republican members apologized to the approximately 64 thousand families who lost spouses due to service connected incidents.
Womack explained his opposition to his committee this way: “…If an amendment such as this were to be adopted, as was the case in some previous amendments, it would distract from the critical overall objective of our budget and that’s addressing the long-term drivers of America’s deficits and debt and, again, that would be very unfortunate.”
Democrats estimated the cost, if passed, at $5.3 billion over the next decade. They proposed reversing the Republican tax giveaways for the wealthy and corporations signed into law by President Trump in December.
Military widow, Kathy Prout from California has spent much of her time lobbying for the change and said many watched the voting live and were extremely disappointed by the outcome. Womack, is himself a veteran and is said to be in support of amending the law but cannot support doing it via the budget amendment. Prout added that both sides of the aisle, both Republicans and Democrats, have been guilty of dropping the ball when called on to enact needed changes.
Both Westerman and Womack have challengers in the upcoming 2018 General Election.