Just when I think that I've seen it all...
The Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act of 2011, officially called House Resolution 1297, has somehow been managed to be stashed in committee and is not currently on the House agenda for this week. OpenCongress.org reports that the last activity on this bill was on 31 March 2011, when it was referred to Referred to the Committee on Armed Services, and to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. I somewhat understand the politics behind not addressing this issue immediately, but I am concerned about the message this sends. In my mind, this bill should have been fast-tracked to the floor for an immediate vote. I know that politicians need to use every tool in their arsenal to do what they think is best, but honestly, folks, we're talking about pay for our military!
As I previously reported, this sensible and appreciated legislation would provide for military members to receive pay, allowances and benefits even if a funding gap results in a government shutdown. In a country where citizens proudly display "Support Our Troops" bumper stickers and where patriotism and military service go hand-in-hand with apple pie and baseball, I am truly shocked that any politician would fail to take immediate, positive action on this bill. There is no budget issue here - the military will eventually get paid regardless of what political maneuvering occurs. This is a simple matter of ensuring the our troops are protected from being unintended victims of the current political debates, by guaranteeing that their pay will arrive on time regardless of what happens with the federal budget.
There hasn't been much coverage of this topic in the popular media. TheHill.com has done a short piece that confusingly (in my mind) talks about two different bills, one about military pay during a shutdown and one about congressional pay during a shutdown. The Hill article states that the bill is no currently scheduled to to come to the House floor for a full vote this week. That, in itself, is not an emergency - the next military payday is not until 15 April.
CNN also has a recent piece that talks about the possibility that military pay could be affected by a gap in federal funding. There isn't much new information in this article, but the concluding paragraph makes an interesting assertion:
The next pay date is April 15, when troops and civilians will at the very least be paid all the money they earned through April 8. After April 8, there would be no pay without a federal budget.I honestly have no idea if this statement is true, and I don't know where they came up with this concept. It seems somewhat reasonable, but then it also seems a little ridiculous. It is an interesting thought, though. I promise I will report more if I come up with any new news.
As an aside, I had an interesting chat about this subject yesterday with one of the sailors who handles pay issues at our local Personnel Support Detachment (PSD). She was joking about the possibility that the military would not get paid on the 15th, primarily because she was going to be on vacation. She clearly did not know anything more than any of us. I'm not sure if that is reassuring or concerning. Just another tidbit to patch together the pieces of this puzzle.