House GOP moves to protect military pay in a shutdown
By: Austin Wright
September 28, 2013 06:06 PM EDT
House Republicans are seeking to spare the military in the event of a government shutdown — a move that can be seen as much about politics as it is about the troops.
The GOP unveiled a bill on Saturday that would ensure service members continue getting paid if Congress is unable to pass a bill to fund the government past midnight Monday, when the fiscal year ends and current appropriations expire.
The measure would also ensure continued pay for civilian employees of the Defense Department and Pentagon contractors who “are providing support to members of the Armed Forces.”
The House is expected to vote on the proposal, sponsored by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), as early as Saturday night and send it to the Senate.
“Our troops should never pay the price when Washington can’t settle its disagreements,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Buck expressed hope Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would take up the measure in the upper chamber. The Senate is not scheduled to return until Monday, but could convene in a hastily arranged session on Sunday.
On Friday, Pentagon officials described the potential effects of a shutdown on the military, saying pay for service members could be delayed and many civilian employees would be furloughed, potentially losing out on their pay entirely.
On Saturday, Congress appeared to be on course for a shutdown on Tuesday, with House Republicans attaching a provision to a continuing spending resolution that would fund the government but delay for a year the implementation of Obamacare — something Senate leaders have said they won’t consider.
Ensuring troops get paid during any shutdown is considered good politics for House Republicans, since analysts suggest the GOP could bear the brunt of the blame for any government disruption.
Also, the House measure could help stave off potential attacks from Democrats, who are already citing the military as they hammer Republicans ahead of Monday’s midnight deadline.
“It’s unconscionable that some members of Congress would place their own policy preferences ahead of the needs of our troops and their families,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Friday.