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The House of Representatives continued Saturday to vote on a series of exemptions to the government shutdown, this time focusing on religious services on military installations.
Brought up for debate on the House floor under rules where it could pass only if two-thirds of the House voted in favor, the measure passed by a 400-1 vote.
The newest funding resolution is aimed not at military chaplains, who like other service members continue to work during the shutdown, but the Defense Department’s decision to furlough civilian workers and contractors who help perform at religious services and programs that could be canceled or reduced in scope because the Defense Department is operating without an appropriations bill. For example, a shortage of Catholic chaplains has led to civilians, both federal workers and contractors, performing Sunday Mass on many installations.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., an Air Force Reserve chaplain, is the chief sponsor of the resolution.
The chaplain’s resolution is different from a military pay bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama on Monday that appropriates whatever money it takes so service members and federal civilians and contractors supporting service members can continue to be paid during the shutdown.
Since passing the military pay measure on Monday, the Senate has not taken up any of the other House-passed resolutions to provide piecemeal funding for specific parts of the federal government while leaving the rest of the government shutdown. President Obama also has vowed to veto the mini-funding bills, demanding that Congress provide full funding to restart the entire government.
There is no specific funding provided in the religious services resolution. Instead, it expresses the nonbinding sense of Congress urging the Defense Department to keep religious programs running, saying that not having these programs “threatens the ability of members of the armed services and their families to exercise their First Amendment rights to worship and participate in religious activities.”
The resolution expresses congressional intent to allow religious services on any property owned or maintained by the Defense Department during a lapse in government funding “in the same manner and to the same extent as religious services are otherwise available.”
Additionally, it says that chaplains, including federal workers and contract personnel hired to perform religious services and other religious activities, should be permitted to continue working.