U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), today led a bipartisan group of senators in introducing the Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act of 2011, S. 724, to assure that military personnel continue to be paid in the event of a government shutdown. The lawmakers urged efforts to prevent a shutdown of government operations, but stressed that a contingency plan must be in place for our service men and women. The lead Democrat cosponsor is Senator Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) and the lead Republican cosponsor is Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.). Other cosponsors include Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).
"A government shutdown is in no one's interest, and I remain hopeful that we will reach an agreement on spending reductions that will fund government until the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2011," said Senator Hutchison. "I am not willing to place the well-being of our military personnel and their families in the balance as we await a budget agreement. Our troops are serving our country, and our country must continue to serve them. This legislation would ensure the military gets paid on time, even if Congress cannot pass a budget before the April 8 deadline."
"While we continue to debate the budget here in Washington, we must do everything to ensure that our service members and their families get the support they deserve," said Senator Casey. "Our military men and women put their lives on the line and sacrifice every day to ensure our security. They should not have to worry about getting paid on time. This legislation will make sure our service members are taken care throughout this important budget debate."
"The last concern our service men and women need to have while serving in harm's way is whether or not they can pay their bills -- rent, car payments, and food for their families. This country and this Congress has an obligation to care for our military and their families, just as they care for and protect this nation every day," said Senator Inhofe, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act of 2011 would make available the necessary funds to prevent an interruption in pay for members of the military if there is a funding gap resulting from a government shutdown. Additionally, a provision is included to give the Secretary of Defense the discretion to allow those who serve as DOD civilians or contractors in support of our men and women in uniform to continue to be paid as well.
Congress did not pass a single appropriations bill last year, including one to fund the Department of Defense, so any government shutdown would affect our military personnel, many of whom are deployed. There are currently 90,000 troops in Afghanistan and more than 45,000 in Iraq.
The Defense Department has yet to establish concrete guidelines as to how a possible shutdown would affect service members' pay, but a draft planning memo did mention that all military personnel would be required to show up to work, regardless of whether they would be paid during the shutdown.
A similar measure, H.R. 1297, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Louie Gohmert (Texas-R-1) last week.