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Senator proposes symbolic pay protection for troops

Sep. 24, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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Showdown Over a Shutdown

If the White House and lawmakers on Capitol Hill fail to agree on a temporary spending deal by Monday, the US government will shut down for the first time since 1996. Click here for complete coverage.

A Nevada senator is pushing for the Senate to take a mostly symbolic vote about protecting military pay during a government shutdown.

Republican Sen. Dean Heller announced Tuesday he’ll have an amendment to a short-term government funding bill seeking to guarantee service members will get paid during the shutdown that would happen if the government runs out of money.

Heller wants to attach his amendment to H.J. Res 59, a short-term spending bill that would avoid a government shutdown. But if that bill becomes law, Heller’s amendment would be moot because there would be no threat to military pay. If the bill doesn’t become law, neither would Heller’s amendment, so nobody would be protected. Heller’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

If it does became law, however, Heller’s amendment might prevent a threat to military pay in any future government shutdown.

Whether the Senate will vote on the amendment is unclear, as Senate leaders have not set a process for debate on the bill.

Heller proposed his amendment after the Defense Department announced Monday that service members would continue to work, but would not be paid, during a government shutdown. They would ultimately be paid, but not until Congress restores funding for the government.

The Oct. 1 payday is not in jeopardy during the current shutdown threat because that money will already have been transferred to service members’ bank accounts before the shutdown. However, the mid-October payday would not happen if the Defense Department does not have at least short-term funding.

In a statement, Heller said his amendment is aimed at preventing pay interruption. “Too many service members and their families are already living paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “Men and women who risk their lives to defend our country should not have to worry whether they can pay their mortgage or electricity bills on time just because Congress has failed to do its job.”

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