While the government shutdown continues to harm many of the civilian employees of the federal government, a new bill passed by both the House will allow the Pentagon to welcome back most of its civilian employees. But, we don’t know for how long.
It seems the impasse of the government shutdown will continue as both Senate Democrats, along with the White House, refuse to defund or delay the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as the House Republicans demand. While many in the country feel the sting of a dysfunctional government held hostage, it is the 2.1 million federal employees that are being hurt the most, as they have been forced to go on unpaid leave since Tuesday October 1st.
However, in what appears to be deliberate action on the part of House Republicans to piecemeal funding for the government, the “Pay Our Military Act” was passed with a vote of 407 to zero in the House on Saturday. Both the Senate and the White House have signaled strong support for the bill and it appears as though it will be signed into law early next week.
The language of the bill allows payment for those “employees whose responsibilities contribute to the moral, well-being, capabilities, and readiness of service members.” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, along with Pentagon lawyers, had been trying to find ways of putting the civilian workforce, for U.S. Defense, back to work last week and this bill seems to be board enough to allow some of these workers to return to their jobs.
While the language of the bill will allow many civilian employees to return to work, it will not allow all to do so under the language of the Pay Our Military Act. Most likely, the employees that will be able to return to work this next week will include those who provide health care services to troops and military families; repair, maintain, and purchase weapons systems; work in commissaries; or acquire other supplies for military readiness.
Under the language of the law it appears that this may exclude auditors, public affairs and legislative employees, as well as civilians employed by the Army Corps of Engineers, or so is indicated by a memo from the Pentagon.
Unfortunately, the language of the Pay Our Military Act does not allow the Pentagon full authority to purchase of new supplies necessary for most Pentagon employees to fulfill their job duties. Which means that if the government shutdown continues to the point where new supplies cannot be acquired, then much of that work force would be sent home again. So, despite the seemingly good news, how long will it be before these works are furloughed again?
This relief for Defense Department civilian workers could end up being very temporary if a full budget is not passed in the near future, which does not seem to be something that will likely happen in the immediate future.
While House Republicans have written and sent legislation to the Senate to fund various parts of the government since the initial shutdown last week, the Senate Democrats have rejected these attempts, demanding that House Republicans pass a bill that will restore the full function of the government. Even as it seems that both parties want to make sure our military is functional, neither side seems willing to budge on the demands being made.
At this point, it seems that Republicans have taken on the Democrats cry of “the other side is not willing to compromise” as the shutdown continues. In fact, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) stated, “If it’s important to ease the pain for [federal employees], what about the vets? Do the Democrats not feel it’s important to ease the pain on them? What about the sick children who need access to clinical trials?”
This seems to be a new tactic for the House Republicans, trying to shift the blame of the shutdown to Senate Democrats and the Obama Administration. Yet, the simple truth is that these token efforts on the part of both parties will not alleviate the pressure enough to allow the American people to get back to “business as usual.”
Both sides are entrenched, yet it seems the Republicans are being more stubborn in their attempt to block legislation that has already been made law. While the Democrats appear to be saying that they will not be bullied into dropping legislation that has already been passed. If the law was written, passed, and the Supreme Court found no fault in the law, how can a handful of men take it upon themselves to force the issue in disregard to the constitutional process they claim to uphold?
However this may continue to play out, the next battle will be over the raising of the national debt ceiling, which means a deadline of October 17th. The $16.7 trillion debt ceiling will need to be raised by October 17th if we are going to remain in good standing with those countries that we borrow from. This particular showdown may prove to be a larger crisis if we, as a nation, default on our debts. It would be the first time ever that the U.S. would be unable to pay interest on the debts we have with countries like China. Which could have far reaching consequences, not only for ourselves, but how we are perceived in the world.
Regardless, the process continues and, at the very least, hundreds of thousands of civilians employed by the Department of Defense, all over the world, maybe able to return to work this next week. Although, how long that will last remains to be seen.
Written by: Iam Bloom