Senate Passes Bill to Pay Military in Shutdown
The Senate on Monday followed the House's lead in clearing the way for servicemembers and Defense Department civilians to continue being paid even if the government shuts down at midnight.
Senators voted unanimously on the measure and sent it to President Obama for his signature. The bill would keep the government paying civilians and contractors who support the military and prevent any delay on the paychecks going to servicemembers.
The White House has not commented on the legislation and had not responded to Military.com's request for comment by press time.
Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said he was glad the Senate passed the military pay bill.
“But the real answer would be to not shut down the government,” he said. Tarantino said it is essential to make sure the military is paid, particularly since many servicemembers live paycheck to paycheck.
“If Congress is getting paid during the shutdown then the men and women fighting our current war should, too,” he said. “The fact that [Congress] is playing chicken with people’s lives is disturbing to say the least, but anything to ease the burden on the troops and their families is good, and I hope the President signs it as soon as possible.”
Nothing in the legislation now gone to the White House covers the country's veteran and retired military population.
"We have to remain hopeful that Congress will reach some sort of compromise that won't financially devastate millions of disabled veterans and survivors, as well as those who provide protect and secure our country," Joe Davis, national spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said on Monday.
During a press conference Monday before the Senate vote, White House spokesman Jay Carney made no reference to the military pay legislation that had come out of the House on Sunday, but did take the opportunity to warn of the harm to be done to veterans by a shutdown.
"For example, veterans' call centers and regional offices would be closed immediately, effective immediately," Carney said. "So those services that help veterans understand their benefits … would be closed."
Veterans' business support centers also would cease operating immediately, he said, while vocational rehabilitation and education counseling would be limited. And should the shutdown extend into the later part of October VA compensation, education and other benefits would ‘be cut off.'"
The House vote to protect military pay on Sunday came as Republican lawmakers sought to protect the military from the impact of any federal shutdown.
So far the bid to send Obama a "clean bill" that will keep the government running until sometime in November has been held up by House Republicans who are using the threat of a shutdown to try and forestall and kill the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
The "Pay Our Military Act" came days after Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said it was "unconscionable that some members of Congress would place their own policy preferences ahead of the needs of our troops and their families."
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