Senate lawmakers on Wednesday unveiled plans for a small pay boost for junior enlisted troops next year, staking out a middle ground between House plans for a sizable salary hike for young servicemembers and White House opposition to any targeted military pay increase.

As part of an initial draft of the Senate Armed Services Committee annual defense authorization bill, panel members announced plans for a 4.5% pay raise for all servicemembers in 2025 (in line with White House plans) and an extra 1% boost for troops ranked E-3 and below.

The extra money is designed to recognize the financial strain facing some young military families and the low base pay junior troops receive. Currently, some young enlisted service members can make as little as $24,000 in basic pay, although that total does not include other compensation such as housing allowances and free health care.

“I’d like to see even more for our active-duty military, but right now we have to stay under budget caps,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. and chairwoman of the committee’s personnel panel. “We squeezed as many dollars from every place else in the Defense Department budget that we could to get this.”

For troops ranked E-2 with less than two years of service, the pay boosts will bring their annual base salary to almost $29,000, about $1,500 more than this year. That’s about $280 more than the White House’s plan for those servicemembers.

But it’s far short of House lawmakers’ plan for a major rewrite of the military basic pay tables next year.

Under that plan — being considered on the House floor this week — troops ranked E-4 and below would see pay raises up to 19.5%, bringing nearly every servicemembers’ annual salary above $30,000 a year. All troops regardless of rank would see a 4.5% pay raise under the plan.

Servicemembers ranked E-3 with two years of service would see their annual salary jump about $4,500 in 2025 under the plan. E-5s with less than 10 years service would see smaller increases too, to ensure their pay stays above lower-ranked troops.

Those targeted pay raises would cost more than $24 billion over the next five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

On Tuesday, White House officials announced the president “strongly opposes” the idea, saying the plan “would lead to pay compression in some parts of the enlisted military basic pay table” and should be delayed until a full review of military compensation rules is completed next year.

That statement drew a sharp rebuke from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala.

“President Biden believes providing the men and women who serve in our armed forces with adequate compensation is too costly. This is offensive and wrong,” he said in a statement. “Too many military families are relying on food banks, SNAP, and WIC in order to put food on the table. Republicans and Democrats on our committee agreed this is unacceptable.”

The Senate plan unveiled Wednesday may indicate support in both chambers of Congress for a compromise path, one less ambitious than the House pay table revisions but still providing more cash-in-hand to junior enlisted troops.

The House authorization bill draft also includes more money for military housing stipends and other quality of life improvements left out of the Senate plan. Senators could still add in some of those provisions later this week, when the armed services committee finishes its bill markup, or when the legislation heads to the chamber floor.

Lawmakers are expected to spend most of the summer negotiating a compromise between the two measures, with an eye towards passing a final bill sometime this fall.

The authorization bill has passed out of Congress for more than 60 consecutive years, making the budget policy measure one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement despite ever-present partisan tension on Capitol Hill.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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