Five patriotic Americans gave up their life for their country this weekend in Afghanistan but their grieving families got two calls from a “grateful nation.” They learned in the second call that since Republicans shut down the government the death benefits they are entitled to can not be paid until the government is funded once again. Normally those funds are wired within 24 hours.
That means the grieving families will not get the funds to fly to Dover to greet the flag draped coffins of their departed loved ones. It means they will not have the money to make funeral arrangements. It means there will be no money to replace the paycheck their family depends on.
"Washington may be shut down, but it's still asking people to go to war,” said Gayle Tzemach Lemmon of the Council on Foreign Relations. “When people realize that they can serve and fight for their country, but that their families will get an I.O.U. until the shutdown is over, I think they're just shocked."
Put yourself in the shoes of a U.S. soldier in the war theater or in harms way like the Seals who undertook two dangerous missions over the weekend. What do you think goes through their minds knowing that if the worst thing happens, their families are left holding the bag while Congressmen enjoy their lives of comfort? This is very bad for morale.
A national disgrace: Congress gets paid
What makes this absolutely outrageous and disgraceful is that Congress is paying itself but won’t pay the families of our fallen warriors. Some Congressmen and President Obama have forgone their pay during the shutdown, but most Congressmen, including many of the Republicans behind the shutdown, are happily collecting their paychecks and travel perks.
There is more to supporting our troops than bumper stickers and American flag pins on a Congressman’s lapel
The House passed a bill to retroactively pay military and federal workers after the government re-opens, but it did nothing for families of those in active duty defending our country. No Congress has ever shutdown the government in a time of war except the Boehner led Republican House of Representatives.
Elections have consequences.
The Pentagon is scrambling to find a way to fix the problem today. Perhaps Congress could pass a bill to do that. However, Republicans in the Senate are holding up the bill the House passed giving furloughed workers and contractors their back pay. The Secretary of Defense Secretary called all DOD workers back to the job after the House passed the bill. However, passage in the Senate is now in doubt.
Texas Senator John Cornyn, Senate Minority Whip told reporters Monday that it would be “premature” to move on a standalone guarantee of back pay for federal workers without addressing other elements of the government shutdown.
“I think it’s really premature to be dealing with that until we deal with the underlying problem,” the Texas Republican said. “We’ve offered a number of bills to try to alleviate some of the hardship, and … they’ve been swatted down out of hand.”
The bottom line is Cornyn, trying to not be outdone by his fellow Texan Ted Cruz, wants to kill the bill to give federal workers back pay unless he can add the same poison pill amendments that have kept the government closed. Cornyn does not need to worry about back pay because Congress pays itself.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins expressed disappointment at her fellow Republican’s posturing that means the federal worker back pay measure might not be expedited.
“I think that’s unfortunate. I think it would be very reassuring to constituents across the country who are out of work through no fault of their own if they at least knew that they were going to receive retroactive pay, since what this represents is not a failure on their part, but a failure on the part of Congress and the White House,” Collins said.
Americans need to express their outrage to Congress, particularly House Republicans, demanding that they open up the government today so no more families of wounded warriors are put in this position. They should also demand a refund from Congressmen for the pay they received during the shutdown.