A California lawmaker is collecting cosponsors for a bill he plans to introduce that would prevent military paychecks from being delayed if the U.S. government runs into cash flow problems.
In response to a statement made Monday by President Obama that military paychecks could be one of the things not paid if Congress doesn't increase the $16.3 trillion limit on U.S. debt, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said he aims to try and protect military pay.
"There are different ways the debt ceiling fight can play out but regardless of what happens in the coming weeks, the men and women of the military, who are defending our freedom, and anyone serving in a combat zone, should be able to take comfort in knowing they will get a paycheck," said Hunter, a Marine combat veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and now sits on the House Armed Services Committee.
Hunter said he doesn't believe that military pay must be put at risk but he wants to ensure it doesn't happen. "If they don't get paid, it's because the president, as commander-in-chief, chose not to make our military a priority," Hunter said.
Obama said military pay, veterans' disability compensation and Social Security checks are among the government payments that might be halted if the government runs out of borrowing power.
But Hunter said military pay — especially for those in combat — should be exempt. "Our military in Afghanistan, those who are supporting missions worldwide and their families, have enough to worry about already. The threat of not getting a paycheck shouldn't even be a concern."
This is not the first time Hunter has proposed legislation to protect troops from the impact of partisan bickering over national economic policy. Hunter and other House Republicans tried to provide similar safeguards in 2011, when a government shutdown was threatened. In the end, the crisis was averted and the military was paid on time.
The strength of the new threat to military paychecks is unclear, since withholding pay is only one of many options available if the government runs short of money.