Regardless of your level of interest in politics, you’ve no doubt heard that the federal government might shut down tomorrow. Lawmakers in Washington are negotiating terms of the government’s budget, and if an agreement cannot be reached, so called “non-essential” government services will not be offered until a budget can be approved. If a shutdown occurs, government services deemed essential, like our military, will continue to operate. However, many of America’s military members are left wondering if and when they will get their paychecks.
Many things in politics are predictable, but what exactly will happen if there is a government shutdown is not one of them. There are many unanswered questions and the particulars of this shutdown are a bit of a mystery. Even if our military is deemed essential, there’s some question as to when and if military personnel will get paid on time.
Military paychecks come on the 1st and 15th of each month. If a shutdown occurs tomorrow, it will fall in the middle of the military’s two-week pay period, causing hundreds of thousands of members of our military to receive pay for the first week of the pay period only.This would affect military families stationed in the U.S. as well as overseas, including troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. An interruption in pay affects not only those serving in the armed forces, but the families they support as well. There are also thousands of civilians working on military bases across the country who would not receive paychecks either. Furthermore, the local economies of towns that thrive because of their military bases—towns like Fayetteville, NC, Colorado Springs, CO, and San Diego, CA—will take a hit at a time when the economy is just starting to recover.
On March 1st, members of the Senate unanimously passed a bill ensuring that Senators would not get paid in the event of a shutdown. However, the bill stalled in the Republican controlled House of Representatives. Then, last week, House Republicans passed a bill that would prevent Washington lawmakers from getting paid during a shutdown, but it was wrapped inside a larger bill with $61 billion in spending cuts that Senate Democrats rejected. As it stands now, if there is a shutdown, there is a very real possibility that lawmakers could continue to draw paychecks while military families do not.
Twenty-one Senate Democrats have written House Speaker John Boehner asking him and other Republicans to immediately pass the Senate bill that would keep lawmakers from being paid during a shutdown, but Speaker Boehner has been unresponsive.
If a shutdown cannot be avoided, military personnel would continue to earn their pay, but they would not receive a paycheck until Congress passes a new budget. This is of little comfort to military families who depend on these paychecks to make it through the month. For now, they wait and watch Washington lawmakers closely while preparing to make cuts in their own budgets, uncertain of when they will get another paycheck.