The Pentagon announced on Friday that 1.4 million U.S. troops will be kept on the job but won't be paid if the government closes. Nearly half of the Defense Department's 800,000 strong civilian workforce will be placed on unpaid leave if Congress fails to pass a new budget by the fiscal close Monday. It would also delay death benefit payments to family members of any casualties that occur during the shutdown. A proposed budget bill has cleared the Senate, but awaits a vote in the House.
Defense officials outlined how the military would operate under a shutdown as a deeply divided Congress argued over rival spending bills, with the clock ticking on the Monday deadline.
"Military personnel will not be paid until such time as Congress makes appropriated funds available to compensate them for this period of service," Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter wrote in a memo describing contingency plans for a shutdown.
The prospect of military service members and civilian employees having to temporarily forego pay due to acrimony in Congress could exact a high political price for some lawmakers, who often go to great lengths to cultivate the support of soldiers and workers at military bases.
With half of all civilian workers facing unpaid leave under a shutdown, the remaining 400,000 civilian employees would continue to work in areas deemed essential but they too would not be paid during the "lapse," Hale said.
There also was a "ghoulish" provision under the law that will delay any payments of death benefits to military families who lose loved ones during the government shutdown, Hale said.
However, employees involved in transporting the remains of war dead and arranging funeral services for fallen troops would continue their work.
Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement today after Defense Department officials outlined steps the department would be required to take in the event of a government shutdown:
“A shutdown would require our troops to go into combat while receiving only an IOU, put hundreds of thousands of DoD civilians on furlough without pay, and could even delay death benefits to the families of troops who fall in combat. It’s unconscionable that some members of Congress would place their own policy preferences ahead of the needs of our troops and their families. Our military and the American people deserve better. I urge Speaker Boehner to reject the legislative anarchy that House Republicans are pursuing, bring the Senate-passed continuing resolution to the floor of the House, send it to the president for his signature and end the threat of a shutdown.”
The Pentagon's top financial officer Robert Hale called the potential shutdown "one more blow to the morale of our civilian workforce," adding that "morale is already low" after automatic budget cuts forced furloughs for some civilian Pentagon employees.
The Defense Department placed more than 600,000 civilian workers on unpaid leave for several days due to the budget cuts, which are also the result of a political impasse in Congress.
President Obama addressed the battle over Obamacare and the chance of a government shutdown during an afternoon press conference on Friday. The president said "the Senate acted responsibly" by passing a short-term measure to keep the government running with just over three days left before the money runs out.
Obama said it's now up to Republicans in the House of Representatives to avoid a shutdown.
"The House Republicans are so concerned with appeasing the tea party they've threatened a government shutdown... unless I repeal the Affordable Care Act," Obama paused briefly before adding, "That's not gonna happen."
The president then spoke directly to GOP lawmakers, “Any Republican in Congress who's currently watching, I’d encourage you to think about who you’re hurting."
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