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Cynical Political Games, Military Pay, And Government Shutdowns

Just about an hour ago, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would extend the Continuing Resolution currently in effect for one week and would also fund the Defense Department through the end of the fiscal year. However, President Obama already said earlier today that he would veto the bill:

The White House announced President Obama would veto a short-term spending agreement proposed by Republicans.

The threat came less than an hour before Obama was to meet Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to discuss a 2011 spending plan.

The White House said Thursday that Obama would veto the bill that would fund the military through September and the federal government for one week, saying the president “believes that we need to put politics aside and work out our differences for a bill that covers the rest of the fiscal year.”

“As the President stated on April 5, 2011, if negotiations are making significant progress, the Administration would support a short-term, clean Continuing Resolution to allow for enactment of a final bill,” the White House said in an official news release of administration policy that was to be released later Thursday.

(…)

GOP leaders, who have cast the bill as a “troop funding” legislation because it would fund the Pentagon through the end of the fiscal year, blasted the veto threat.

“If the president vetoes this bill and shuts the government down, our men and women in uniform serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world will not be paid. Our troops must be paid, our country is broke, and we are committed to fixing that. I urge the president revisit his decision and work with us,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement.

The bill also includes language that would prohibit the District of Columbia from using local government funds for abortion services. The legislation is opposed by Senate Democrats and is not expected to reach Obama’s desk.

I noted the concerns about the fact that a government shutdown would affect pay for soldiers serving in combat. During an appearance with troops in Iraq today Secretary of Defense Gates said that troops would get at least some pay even if the government did shut down tomorrow:

Speaking to a group of 200 soldiers in Baghdad, Defense Secretary Gates drew Army cheers of “Hooah” from the crowd when he eased their concerns about the government shutdown and said “first of all, let me say you will be paid.”

Gates’s comment came during a question and answer session when one of the soldiers about how the government shutdown might affect them. He then joked, “as a historian it always occurred to me the smart thing for government was always to pay the guys with guns first.”

Turning serious he explained to them how if there is a government shutdown, days the troops in the field would get half a paycheck for this pay period, but get back pay in the future.

“But in all seriousness, based on some stuff I read this morning, if the government shuts down starts on the 8th and goes for a week, you’d get a half a check.  If it goes from the 15th to the 30th, you wouldn’t get a pay check on the 30th but you would be back paid for all of it. So that’s the deal and I’m, you know, frankly, I remember when I was your age I did a lot of living from pay check to pay check and so I hope this thing doesn’t happen.”

Since many lower-ranking soldiers who do serve in combat have dependents who rely on that paycheck, an extended shutdown (which seems unlikely in any event) would be a problem. So, for the past day or so, both sides have been using this issue as a weapon in the PR war that has been going on throughout this process. That was the reason that the GOP introduced this bill, after all, and the fact that they’ve attached things like abortion funding riders to it demonstrates that they know it has no chance of passing in the Senate, never mind being signed by the President. If this was really about making sure they troops get paid if the government shuts down, both sides could easily take care of that without attaching riders to it like this.

Some on the right, like Ed Morrissey think that the President and the Democrats have fallen into a political trap. That’s one way of looking at it, but with polls showing that the public is ready to blame both sides pretty much equally if they aren’t able to make a deal here, I’m not sure that the GOP’s cynical use of the troops to score a political point here is going to impress anyone. At this point, it seems that the only thing the public really wants to see is a deal that averts a shutdown. Pushing it off for another week just means we’ll be back here again arguing the same stuff over and over again.

John Boehner and Harry Reid will be returning to the White House tonight at 7pm to meet with the President and Vice-President. If there’s any chance of a last minute deal being made, it would seem that this is it. By tomorrow, everyone will be busy planning for the shutdown and positioning themselves politically. Given how the past two days have gone, my guess is we’ll see a shutdown at midnight on Friday with continued negotiations through the weekend that result in a deal before the government is supposed to open for business on Monday. What that will accomplish for either side, I cannot fathom.

 

 

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. legion says:

    Dude. When you have the moral high ground, don’t buy a sled.

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  2. Jay Tea says:

    I call it “hostage-taking.” It’s done at every level of government. State having budget woes? Welfare and state police go first. At the local level? Police, fire, trash, libraries. School system? Teachers.

    The idea is to hit the public employees and programs that garner the most public sympathy and support first, and protect the hacks and the graft at their expense.

    The best way to fight it is the same way to fight any hostage situation: give the hostages no thought, no value, and take out the hostage-takers anyway. In the long run, it’s the best way to reduce future hostage-takings. Giving in just encourages future use of the tactic — the quickest way to get more of something is to subsidize it.

    Call their bluff. The GOP plan buys an extra week, AND covers Defense through the end of the year. Let the Senate or Obama explain why they wouldn’t accept that deal.

    J.

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  3. legion says:

    Not that I’m disagreeing necessarily, but what happens when both sides take hostages?

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  4. Tlaloc says:

    Meh. Frankly I’m more concerned about the people who’ll be hurt who didn’t volunteer to murder other human beings in the name of corporate profits and asinine political goals. Maybe that’s just me. If the troops didn’t want to be pawns they wouldn’t be troops, now would they?

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  5. [...] Cynical Political Games, Military Pay, And Government Shutdowns (outsidethebeltway.com) [...]

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  6. steve says:

    Meh. Dems should offer their own bill that pays for the troops the rest of the year and cuts deficits by raising taxes on the rich. Let the GOP explain that.

    Or, they could just pass a budget since they already got most of what they wanted.

    Steve

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  7. Jay Tea says:

    First idea’s an interesting one, Steve. Could be worth a try.

    The second, though, can’t be done. By the Constitution, all revenue-raising bills have to start in the House, and the Democrats ain’t about to get a budget past Boehner.

    J.

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  8. Jay Tea says:

    Legion, the Repubs kind of have taken hostages of their own. They’ve tossed in defunding for NPR and Planned Parenthood with the one-week extension, along with funding for the military through the end of the year.

    Not quite the same, but yeah, similar.

    J.

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  9. [...] the past day or so, America's fighting men have been pawns in a cynical political game.Full news story This entry was posted in HOT News and tagged ako, goverment shutdown, government shut down, [...]

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  10. anjin-san says:

    hey’ve tossed in defunding for NPR and Planned Parenthood with the one-week extension, along with funding for the military through the end of the year.

    Ah, so. If we don’t defund tiny amounts of money for programs conservatives don’t like, the folks who are fighting and dying for our country don’t get paid. Well, maybe their families can get food stamps.

    Yea, conservatives are all about supporting the troops. When they are not using them as hostages in a political power play.

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  11. Axel Edgren says:

    Obama shouldn’t budge. Troops are not worth it if it means destroying condom and sex-education efforts (“every sperm is sacred” was supposed to be a mockery, you MANIACS).

    Also, polls don’t favor destroying the EPA either.

    I don’t care if republicans are evil or not – their stupidity has reached a malicious point. The only solution to this level of degeneracy is the final one, and I don’t want to go down that road.

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  12. Jay Tea says:

    Obama shouldn’t budge. Troops are not worth it if it means destroying condom and sex-education efforts (“every sperm is sacred” was supposed to be a mockery, you MANIACS).

    I literally have nothing to add to this confession. Res ipsa loquitur. Planned Parenthood — which only gets a portion of its funding from the federal government — is more important to our nation than those who have literally given themselves to the nation (they are literally government property while in service) and are prepared to give their lives in our defense, in Axel’s judgment.

    That says it all.

    J.

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  13. anjin-san says:

    Defunding Planned Parenthood — which only gets a portion of its funding from the federal government — is more important to our nation than those who have literally given themselves to the nation (they are literally government property while in service) and are prepared to give their lives in our defense, in Axel’s Boehner’s judgment.

    That says it all.

    FTFY

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  14. Ole Sarge says:

    As the military is viewed from the White House:
    Mostly white, mostly Christian, mostly conservative, mostly Republican, and mostly NOT in LOVE with the present administration. Along with an unhealthy devotion to traditional values, a “fear” of G-d, and allegiance NOT to a person or political party, but to the Flag and the U.S. Constitution.

    That is why we are on the trash heap of priorities on the present administration.

    I DO NOT blame the newly elected Congressional Representatives, nor the Republican Political party. I do lay the entire blame for this mess on the feet of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barrack Hussein Obama/Barry Soetoro Mangunharjo.

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  15. John425 says:

    Off-Topic, but I couldn’t resist: Over at Red State, Mataconis is taken to task:

    “…the shamefully credulous response by Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, I don’t want to hold back. I want to tell it like it is, and why unless some very good answers are given to some very important issues I’m about to raise, public opinion of both Doug Mataconis and of Tom Jensen should be diminished.

    Doug Mataconis has long been a bitter, mean-spirited troll of all good and decent reformers within the GOP, and his deranged hatred for conservatives has diminished his mental faculties to the point that he’ll believe any lie that comes down, as long as it’s nasty about conservatives. But, what do we expect from a guy whose personal web page has become an obsessive shrine to Ron Paul?”

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  16. Billy says:

    Doug,

    The comment at Red State illustrates the maxim that a man can be judged by his enemies. I can’t speak for the public, but it enhances my opinion of you as an honest broker.

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  17. [...] a deal, not fingerpointing: Can we just stop it with the “cynical political games,” says Doug Mataconis in Outside the Beltway. “If this was really about making sure the troops get paid,” both sides would pass a [...]

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  18. [...] a deal, not fingerpointing: Can we just stop it with the “cynical political games,” says Doug Mataconis in Outside the Beltway. “If this was really about making sure the troops get paid,” both sides would pass a [...]

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