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White House official: No pay during shutdown

Apr. 6, 2011 - 12:49PM   |   Last Updated: Apr. 6, 2011 - 12:49PM  |  

Service members will not get paid and a significant number of Defense Department civilian employees will be furloughed, a senior Obama administration official said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.

That is the administration's most definitive statement to date on whether troops will be paid if the government shuts down. A shutdown will happen if Congress does not pass a spending measure to keep agencies funded once an existing stopgap measure expires at midnight Friday.

The White House and Congress remained deadlocked on budget legislation to carry the government past that point. If no deal is reached by then, numerous government functions will cease on Saturday morning. Exceptions will be made for operations necessary for the protection of life and property, and those that are funded through some means other than annual appropriations, the senior administration official said.

Also, any personnel needed to handle the orderly shutdown of federal operations will continue to work.

Military personnel would continue to earn money during a shutdown, but they would not immediately be paid past Friday "until we have money again," the senior administration official said.

A senior defense official told The Associated Press that if a shutdown occurred and lasted past the April 15 payday, troops would receive one week's worth of pay, rather than two, for their work through Friday.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Tuesday that officials are preparing a detailed guidance memo to all top military leaders that will help address questions and concerns.

Troops may see a temporary gap in their paychecks, but any missed pay would be restored in full after the political fight is over and the government resumes operations, according to one government official familiar with the process.

On Monday, the House Armed Services Committee chairman tried to reassure service members who are worried about not being paid.

Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said he doesn't think a government shutdown will happen at the end of the week because he believes lawmakers will agree on a budget.

If there is a shutdown, he doesn't see it lasting more than a few days, which would not affect the April 15 military payday. And, if the military cannot make the April 15 payroll because of a shutdown, service members will not lose any money because they will be fully paid once funding is restored, McKeon said in a meeting with reporters.

"I think we are mature enough to get this fixed," McKeon said of the standoff on the 2011 budget that was supposed to have been approved by the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.

McKeon said he thinks an agreement will be reached by midnight Friday. "The only way we would get [a shutdown] is to stumble into it," he said.

If a shutdown occurs, McKean said he believes Congress will work through the weekend to have a federal budget by Monday morning, which would avoid any serious disruption in government activities.

Even as the deadline for a shutdown moves closer, the threat that service members might not be paid has some lawmakers pushing for legislation to protect them.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, introduced a bill Monday to guarantee military pay during a shutdown, then introduced a revised bill Tuesday that also promises essential civilian employees of the Defense Department would be paid.

Hutchison said Wednesday that cutting spending the issue holding up an agreement on a government budget is important, but a shutdown "will put people in peril in many areas."

Under her bill, the military would be paid in a shutdown, and so would defense civilian employees and contractors providing essential services.

"I don't want one more minute of stress on our military," she said.

Senate leaders have not scheduled a vote on Hutchison's newest bill, S 724, nor on the earlier bill, S 721.

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