Senators Float Proposals to Exempt Military From Shutdown

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:40pm

Several senators are once again floating proposals to make the effects of a government shutdown less severe for certain segments of the population, including military personnel.

In one effort, Colorado Democrat Mark Udall and Kansas Republican Jerry Moran unveiled a bill to keep the paychecks going out to uniformed military personnel, key civilians supporting national security and for disaster aid functions of the National Guard.

“Colorado’s flood victims and military families shouldn’t suffer if Washington gridlock and partisan stalemates lead to a government shutdown,” Udall said in a statement. “This bipartisan bill will ensure that our troops, critical Defense Department civilian workers and the people they help on a daily basis are not hurt by Washington-style partisanship.”

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., was in Colorado on Monday to tour flood-ravaged parts of the state along with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and state and local officials, including members of Congress. Biden said that FEMA operations would continue, even in the event of a government shutdown, the Denver Post reported.

“It’s probably going to scare the living devil out of you,” Biden said, in reference to the fiscal wrangling and the debt limit debate.

“I am hopeful the president and Congress will come together to confront our nation’s fiscal challenges instead of continuing to push them off to a future date. As indecision continues, this legislation will give our military members, critical civilian workers and National Guard assisting in disaster relief the certainty they deserve. It is the least we can do for those who give so much,” Moran said in a Tuesday statement.

Separately, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., announced intentions to at least file an amendment to the continuing resolution guaranteeing military pay in the event of a shutdown. Heller’s Nevada counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has shown no intention of allowing amendments to the spending bill that he doesn’t select.

Reid plans to seek to amend the spending measure to strike some House provisions, including the one defunding Obamacare, as well as a change in the expiration date, moving it up to Nov. 15.

“Too many service members and their families are already living paycheck to paycheck. Men and women who risk their lives to defend our country should not have to worry whether they can pay their mortgage or electricity bills on time just because Congress has failed to do its job. Congress should do the right thing for our military and ensure that our troops receive their pay on time no matter what,” Heller said in a statement.

Military paychecks could be delayed if there’s a lapse in government funding on Oct. 1, notes the Roll Call Topic A: Defense blog, citing a report from the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

Of course, the trouble for Heller is that even if Reid allowed such a vote, the victory wouldn’t accomplish the stated goal, at least in this government funding standoff — he’s trying to attach the measure to the resolution that must pass in order to avert the shutdown itself.

Based on the schedule set forth under Senate rules, if Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and his colleagues persist in using all debate time available, the final vote would not take place until Sunday. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that he would hope Democrats and Republicans would consent to a shorter debate, to give the House more time to work to pass a funding measure before Oct. 1.

“Any one senator can object to any effort to shorten the process. My own view is, it would be to the advantage of our colleagues in the House … in the majority to shorten the process,” McConnell said. “And if the majority leader were to ask us to shorten the process, I would not object.”