WASHINGTON — The U.S. military is set to receive a 3.1% pay hike next year, but just who deserves credit for that increase has become something of a political debate.

The House Armed Services Committee voted recently to approve the annual defense authorization bill.

Democrats touted the pay increase as an important feature of the legislation and slammed Republican members who voted no, saying they had voted against giving the troops a raise.

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., was one of only two GOP members of the committee to support the bill, after he persuaded his colleagues to adopt an amendment authorizing money for recovery efforts at the flooded Offutt Air Force Base and other disaster-damaged military installations.

After the vote, Bacon touted his support for various provisions in the bill and specifically cited the pay boost, which drew an objection from Democrat Ann Ashford, who is seeking her party’s nomination to oppose Bacon next year.

A Washington Post fact check on the issue noted that the bill did not have specific language setting the raise at that level. Rather, the raise is set by a formula and scheduled to automatically go into effect under existing law.

“This would have happened anyway,” Ashford said.

But what about her fellow Democrats saying the bill raises salaries?

She said everyone seems to be playing politics and she disagrees with them as well.

Democrats, and Bacon, have stood by their characterization that the bill raises military pay.

After all, lawmakers could have opted to block or change the level of the raises but chose not to do so. And they said the bill clearly authorizes the funding that will pay for those raises.

“That’s our role, to authorize,” Bacon said.

Bacon suggested that Ashford’s comments represent reflexive criticism of an opponent.

The two did find some common ground.

Ashford said she appreciated Bacon working to get the Offutt recovery money authorized in the bill.

And Bacon also took issue with Democrats suggesting that Republican no votes were in opposition to the pay raises.

He said most of his fellow GOP members on the panel voted against the bill because of provisions dealing with the U.S.-Mexico border situation, nuclear weapons and the overall funding level.

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Reporter - Politics/Washington D.C.

Joseph Morton is The World-Herald Washington Bureau Chief. Morton joined The World-Herald in 1999 and has been reporting from Washington for the newspaper since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @MortonOWH. Email:joseph.morton@owh.com

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