HONOLULU - On Thursday, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard introduced legislation to protect servicemembers and critical Defense Department employees if the government shuts down on Oct. 1. Gabbard, a veteran who served on two deployments to the Middle East, said that those covered by her Military Pay Protection Act (H.R. 3187) would still be paid even if the government shutters. Military servicemembers would still report for duty and would accrue pay, but their paychecks could be delayed.
Gabbard's interest in protecting servicemembers' pay is political as well as personal: Hawaii is home to more than 30,000 active-duty military servicemembers. “Those who are serving and sacrificing for our nation," Gabbard, a Democrat, said in a statement, "should not face uncertainty at home about whether they will be able to feed their families or pay their mortgage.”
In 2011, as the nation faced a similar threat of a government shutdown, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that all military personnel would be required to report to duty, even though their paychecks would be delayed until the government reopened. At the time, Gates acknowledged the difficulty troops might face when he said, “You all know as well as I do, a lot of these young troops live pretty much paycheck to paycheck. And I start to think about the inconvenience that its going to cause these kids and a lot of their families, even half a paycheck delayed can be a problem for them, so I hope they work this whole thing out.”
In order to avoid the impending shutdown, Congress must find common ground on a temporary funding bill before the current funding authority ends on Sept. 30. All eyes are on House Republicans, who have been unable to settle on a consensus approach to the funding deadlock with just days to go.