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Coast Guard Pay Cutoff Looms as House Votes Down Homeland Funding

Capitol Hill

The House voted down a bill Friday that would have extended funding for the $40 billion Homeland Security Department for another three weeks, leaving 42,000 Coast Guard active duty members and 34,000 retirees to face the loss of their paychecks.

The 224 -203 vote was a stunning rebuke to the House Republican leadership that backed the stopgap bill.

Amid confusion on the House floor, the leadership scrambled to come up with an alternative before the midnight Friday deadline for the Homeland funding cutoff, with the possibility that the next vote might not come until next week.

Failure to reach a deal on a funding bill would force Coast Guardsmen and about 80 percent of Homeland's personnel to work without pay until a compromise could be reached.

The impasse came about from Republican moves to link Homeland funding to efforts to block President Obama's executive actions on immigration.

An early vote in the House on the three-week extension passed easily by a vote of 240-183. "The House must pass this bill in short order to keep the lights on at the Department of Homeland Security in the near term," said Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky. "Hopefully, this will buy us this additional time that we clearly need."

Earlier, the Senate voted 68-31 to approve a full-year funding bill for Homeland that was free of the contentious provisions on immigration.

A Texas court has already blocked the Obama administration from implementing the executive actions that would greatly reduce the number of deportations. The Justice Department is appealing the ruling.

Without a deal, about 30,000 personnel at Homeland would be furloughed at midnight Friday and another 200,000, including the Coast Guardsmen, would have to work without pay.

Earlier this week; Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft warned that the Coast Guard operations in law enforcement to include drug interdictions and ships' inspections would be curtailed if Congress failed to reach agreement on Homeland funding.

Coast Guard men and women would continue to work without pay but Zukunft said that a funding cutoff will impact on routine law enforcement patrols and facility inspections, fisheries enforcement, mariner licensing and credentialing, certain vessel inspections and recreational boating safety.

"If our appropriations lapse, Coast Guard men and women standing watch globally will not be paid," Zukunft said in his message. "Further, over 6,000 valuable Coast Guard civilians -- or nearly three-quarters of our total civilian workforce -- will be furloughed, again with no guarantee of pay."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com

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