Paycheck Chronicles

House Bill Could Save Military Pay, For Now

Update 1 October 2013:  This bill has been signed into law.  Military pay is protected.

The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would authorize the continuation of military pay even if a government shutdown occurs.  This bill passed unanimously, with 420 votes in favor and zero votes against.  The bill will now go to the Senate for a vote, and if passed, will continue to the President for a signature.

Will it happen?  Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va.,  believes that the bill will "in all likelihood" pass the Senate on Monday.  “I don't suspect that will be too controversial.”

Once passed by both chambers of Congress, the bill will go to President Obama.  He can sign it or veto it.  If he vetoes the bill, Congress can still make it into law with the vote of two-thirds of each house of Congress.  The bill clearly has that much support in the House of Representatives, which is good news.

There is some uncertainty about the exact last-minute that the bill would need to become law to protect the 15 October 2013 military payday.  This is because the processing of so many accounts takes time, and there is some leeway in compressing the time.  Department of Defense comptroller Robert F. Hale spoke in a press conference on Friday: “I think the earliest we'd start having trouble would be October 7th. And that's not a hard date. We'll push it as far as we can. But at some point we have to run the payroll."

While this bill is good news, it only addresses the government shutdown portion of the current financial crisis.  This bill does not have the authority to protect military pay in the event we hit the debt ceiling in late October or early November.  That separate issue has separate laws and military pay could still be affected.

I'll be keeping an eye on this bill, and will keep this column updated.

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