Airmen participate in an airfield establishment exercise at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sept. 21, 2023. Members of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron jumped from an MC-130J during the 94th Joint Civilian Orientation Conference. (U.S. Department of Defense photo)
WASHINGTON — The White House is warning that a partial government shutdown would mean 1.3 million active-duty armed services members must keep working without receiving paychecks and hundreds of thousands of Pentagon employees would face furloughs.
The Biden administration on Tuesday blasted what it’s now calling an “Extreme Republican Shutdown,” saying it would undermine national security.
According to September 2022 figures, numerous states are home to large numbers of troops who would work without pay until after the shutdown, including Virginia with 129,400; North Carolina with 95,900; Florida with 66,900; Georgia with 63,800; and Washington with 62,100.
On Thursday the GOP-led U.S. House failed for a third time to begin debate on the $826 billion defense spending bill. Another procedural vote on a multi-bill package was expected on Tuesday night as members return from the weekend.
An estimated 21,100 active-duty troops stationed in Oklahoma could have their pay withheld if Congress fails to reach a budget agreement, according to an analysis released by the White House.
Oklahoma’s share of active-duty service members ranks in the Top 15 nationally.
Rep. Josh West, R-Grove, said it would be a “terrible thing” if military personnel went unpaid due to a government shutdown, but said he believes Congress will reach a last-minute budget deal.
“The bottom line is the military’s going to get paid. They’re not going to shut the government down,” said West, a U.S. Army combat veteran who leads the state House Committee on Veteran and Military Affairs.
He said nonpayment would be demoralizing to the country’s troops.
“This is a game that both sides play, but at the end of the day, they’re going to keep government open, especially that part of government,” he said.
—Reporting by Janelle Stecklein
“Nobody joins the military to get rich. You join because you love your country. You want to serve, and you’re willing to do it at some risk to yourself. But you have every expectation that the government is going to be able to pay a decent wage and take care of your family,” John Kirby, spokesperson for the administration’s National Security Council, said on a call with reporters Tuesday.
“When (service members) don’t get their paychecks, electrical bills, water bills, rent, mortgage, grocery bills, all that stacks up to the great detriment of these young men and women,” he continued. “So in total, more than 1.3 million could actually face real financial hardship as they continue to show up to defend the rest of us.”
Service members would be paid retroactively upon the end of a shutdown, which could last hours, days or weeks.
Five GOP members voted against the rule Thursday that would have allowed the House to begin debating the defense spending bill and considering nearly 200 amendments.
Among the no votes were Andy Biggs of Arizona, Dan Bishop of North Carolina and Matt Rosendale of Montana. Arizona Rep. Eli Crane and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who both supported moving forward earlier in the week, flipped to vote no.
Government shutdown Saturday
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been unable to unify his party members on full-year government spending bills or even a short-term stopgap measure that would avoid a shutdown, which would occur Saturday night without action by Congress.
Far-right members of the conference want to further cut nondefense spending beyond an agreement that McCarthy reached with President Joe Biden, who signed it into law. Some also want to sever any Ukraine funding from a government funding deal.
The fiscal year ends Saturday, and McCarthy has only a slim margin of votes he can afford to lose.
And, any spending bills or short-term deals to avoid a funding lapse would need to be bipartisan enough to appeal to the Democrat-led Senate.
If no deal is reached before the year’s fiscal deadline, other parts under the Defense Department’s massive scope will be affected, the administration also warned.
Kirby said the Pentagon’s military recruitment programs as well as procurement and management of existing defense contracts will be disrupted if the department’s civilian employees are furloughed.
“All of this would prove disruptive to our national security and our efforts to address the critical needs of the American people. And again, the reason is these extreme House Republicans are basically turning their backs on a bipartisan budget deal that they worked out with the president, that two-thirds of them voted for just a few months ago.”
The department’s civilian workforce totals 804,422, and roughly 430,000 could face furloughs, according to the Pentagon on Tuesday.
MCarthy’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the possibility of troops working without pay or Pentagon furloughs.
The offices of Biggs, Bishop, Crane, Greene and Rosendale also did not respond.
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