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Bachmann changes mind on cuts to veterans’ benefits

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Tea party icon Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) backed off her controversial plan to cut federal spending for veterans’ benefits.

Her $4.5 billion proposed cut to the Veterans’ Administration “received a lot of attention and I have decided that it should be removed from consideration,” Bachmann said in an advisory Friday.

“The problem of government spending must be solved, but not on the backs of our nation’s war heroes,” she added.

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The proposed cut to veterans’ health care and disability benefits was part of wider plan to eliminate $400 billion from the federal budget.

Bachmann posted a document on her official Web site, calling the spending cuts “real and necessary” to avoid increasing the debt ceiling above $14.3 trillion. She supports the United States wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The turnaround came after several veterans’ advocacy groups, including objections from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, sharply criticized her proposal.

“No way, no how, will we let this proposal get any traction in Congress,” Richard L. Eubank, VFW’s national commander, said in a press advisory.

The US federal deficit is poised to hit $1.5 trillion in 2011, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected recently, and while Congress debates ways to cut spending, veterans’ benefits have not yet been targeted.

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“It is really astonishing to see this,” Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, told the Army Times, noting that VA expenses have risen in recent years with thousands of US troops in need of medical attention.

Bachmann has garnered something of a cult following among tea partyers across the nation, and recently elevated her profile by offering her own “tea party” response to President Barack Obama’s most recent State of the Union address.

With reporting by Sahil Kapur.

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