Defense & National Security

Hunter to introduce bill protecting troop pay in budget crisis

Hunter to introduce bill protecting troop pay in budget crisis

In the event of a debt ceiling showdown, a Republican congressman is drafting legislation to make sure members of the military have their pay guaranteed.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) plans to introduce the bill early next week, staffer Joe Kasper told Human Events.

“Whether they are fighting in Afghanistan or supporting operations elsewhere, service members deserve assurance that they will not be denied a paycheck,” Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran, said in a release.

President Barack Obama threatened Monday during a news conference that if Republicans did not agree to raise the debt ceiling, veterans’ benefits would be delayed and troops might go unpaid.

“These are bills that have already been racked up, and we need to pay them,” Obama said.

Hunter introduced a similar bill in the last legislative session, when Congress faced the fiscal cliff. But that was only a precautionary measure, as troop pay was not expected to be directly affected by sequestration; now, Kasper said, it’s a more serious concern.

“That’s a real disservice to our service men and women,” Kasper said, citing the president’s constitutionally appointed role as commander in chief of the armed forces.

“The bottom line is this: if the troops don’t get paid, it’s because the president makes a conscious decision not to pay them. that will be squarely on his back,” he said.

The legislation, which already has over two dozen co-sponsors from the right side of the aisle according to Hunter’s office, does not attempt to prioritize debt payments or find other means to pay the troops. But it does guarantee paychecks for all active-duty service members as well as civilian support personnel serving in war zones. It’s Obama’s job to sequence and prioritize payments in a way that shields the military, Kasper said.

The U.S. government is expected to hit the federal debt limit in mid- to late- February. Many Democrats and the White House argue that Congress should lift the debt ceiling and allow the nation to continue borrowing and spending, while key Republicans have argued that lawmakers should allow most of the government to shut down while the parties forge an aggressive fiscal reform deal.

Troop pay was last placed in jeopardy in spring 2011 when the federal government faced shutdown due to congressional inability to pass a budget. The crisis was averted with an 11th-hour continuing resolution that allowed the government to keep spending without addressing the larger budget problem.

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