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Shutdown looms at midnight; military pay protection uncertain

Sep. 30, 2013 - 03:31PM   |  
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Speaker John Boehner and the House of Representatives is standing by for the possibility of another vote late Monday on a shutdown-avoidance measure, but there are no signs of the type of compromise that would be needed for the House, Senate and White House to agree on details. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP)
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With the clock ticking toward a midnight shutdown of the federal government, there is no sign of political compromise to keep the government running — and it is unclear if Congress will exempt military pay from the appropriations crisis.

All eyes are on the Senate, where Democratic leaders have rejected the latest House-passed bill that would fund the government through Dec. 15 as long as the so-called Obamacare health care reform initiative is delayed for one year and its taxes on medical devices are repealed.

The Senate intends to pass some kind of government funding bill on Monday because, much like the card game Old Maid, they won’t want to be one at midnight holding a bill that could prevent a government shutdown.

The House of Representatives is standing by for the possibility of another vote late Monday on a shutdown-avoidance measure, but there are no signs of the type of compromise that would be needed for the House, Senate and White House to agree on details.

For now, top Democrats have no plans to take up the House-passed Military Pay Protection Act, a measure to exempt service members, some defense civilian employees and some defense contractors from delayed pay during a shutdown. However, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Sunday that he expects the Senate will pass it.

Other than giving troops and their families a little peace of mind, there is no immediate need to pass the pay measure, HR 3210. Defense officials said Friday they would need government funding restored by about Oct. 7, maybe as late as Oct. 9, in order to process the Oct. 15 military payroll.

The Pay Our Military Act passed the House early Sunday on a 423-0 vote. But there is mixed support for the pay protection bill because it keeps only some people from missing a payday in a shutdown.

The pay bill is designed to cover uniformed services members and Defense Department and Homeland Security Department civilians and contractors work in support of troops. It does not extend to any other federal agencies or to anyone else dependent on government income.

For example, the Veterans Affairs Department said Saturday that in an extended government shutdown, it will run out of money to pay disability and survivors’ compensation and pensions to the more than 3.5 million low-income veterans on the VA rolls.

A senior Senate aide said there is reluctance to single out the military for pay protection if the same cannot be done for veterans who are totally disabled from combat injuries.

“The answer is to not have a shutdown, rather than trying to perform some triage on who should get paid and who could do without,” said the Democratic aide.

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