Shutdown exemption for military pay becomes law

Military pay and the pay of some federal civilians and contractors
will be exempt from delay during a government shutdown, under a law
signed late Monday by President Obama.

In one of the few agreements
lawmakers have been able to reach in weeks of tense negotiations, the
threat of military members, including the Coast Guard, missing their
mid-October payday was resolved with a new law that appropriates
whatever sum of money is needed to cover military payroll costs.

Obama signed the bill after it easily passed the House of Representatives on Sunday and the Senate early Monday afternoon.

There
may be a similar effort to exempt veterans benefits from the effects of
a shutdown. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who is
chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced a bill
Monday aimed at preventing the Veterans Affairs Department from running
out of money to pay for veterans' disability, survivor and education
benefits.

Without the military pay bill, troops would work during a
government shutdown and accrue pay but would not receive it until
government funding is restored. The Oct. 15 payday is the first date
when a shutdown could have an impact.

The bill, HR 3210, applies
to pay and allowances of active-duty members, including reservists on
full-time active duty, plus pay and allowances for Defense Department
and Homeland Security Department civilians and contractors who are
determined to be “providing support to members of the armed forces.”

Decisions
about which federal workers and contractors would receive pay would be
left to the defense secretary or homeland security secretary.

Rep.
Mike Coffman, R-Colo., a former Marine Corps and Army veteran who
served in Iraq in 2006, is the chief sponsor of what is being called the
Pay Our Military Act.

“I fully understand the stresses that our
men and women in uniform face on a day-to-day basis, particularly when
we are still a nation at war,” Coffman said. “When things do not go well
at home, the stress that our deployed men and women are already under
is multiplied, particularly if their families go without an income and
suffer financial hardships due to a government shutdown.”

Sen.
Mike Lee, R-Utah, one of the lawmakers fighting to include restrictions
on health care reform in any government funding bill, said service
members don't need to be caught up in the political battle.

“The
current fight in Washington is about whether or not Congress will act to
protect the American people from Obamacare,” Lee said. “Our differences
on that issue should not put at risk payments to our military. They
should be fully funded immediately.”

Categories: KUSI