Shutdown Deal Protects Troop Pay for Few Months
A possible deal presented by the Senate Wednesday afternoon to end the U.S. government shutdown and extend the country's borrowing authority may only protect troops' paychecks for another three months.
The Senate deal under consideration would reopen and fund the government through Jan. 15 and raise the federal debt limit through Feb. 7, according to news reports. The Democrat-controlled chamber was scheduled to vote on the agreement later Wednesday.
It was unclear whether the pact would receive enough support in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
The legislation would mean the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments would fully reopen in a few days. Furloughed civilians and contractors would return to work. Guard and Reserve units would also resume training and payrolls.
But even if Congress passes the legislation and President Barack Obama signs it, the Pentagon's workforce could find itself in a similar situation just months from now -- with the possibility of more delays to troops' pays and bonuses and additional furloughs of civilian workers.
The combined effects of a default and government shutdown would supersede any legislation designed to shield military personnel from financial harm, according to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
Everything from troops' pay and benefits, including incentive pays and re-enlistment bonuses, to veterans' disability benefits and survivors' benefits would be eliminated if the U.S. fails to raise the debt ceiling and defaults on debt obligations, he said.
"The United States should not be put in a position of making such perilous choices for our economy and our citizens," Lew said last week in testimony to the Senate Finance Committee.
The Senate deal, negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., keeps intact automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.
The Defense Department faces $500 billion in automatic cuts over the next decade. That's in addition to almost $500 billion in defense reductions already included in 2011 deficit-reduction legislation.
The first installment of the automatic cuts totaled $37 billion and began March 1 after lawmakers were unable to reach an alternative agreement on taxes and spending. The next round totals $52 billion and is set to take effect Jan. 1.
|Government Shutdown Military Pay Brendan McGarry|