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A key senator described U.S. service members as “innocent” victims in the high-stakes political showdown over government funding.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate’s second ranking Democrat and chairman of Senate defense appropriations subcommittee, said Thursday the partial government shutdown coming next week if Congress doesn’t provide at least temporary funding will hurt the military and the people in it.
“Men and women who are trying to keep us safe, many of them risking their lives, are now about to be pawns in this political game,” Durbin said. “It is an unconscionable breach of faith.”
His remarks came as the Senate continued its fourth day of debate over a short-term spending bill that would keep the government operating while lawmakers try to reach a larger budget deal. The Senate is expected to pass its version of the so-called continuing resolution on Friday, sending it to back to the House. Over the weekend, the House and Senate may trade bills one more time in an effort to avoid a Tuesday shutdown.
If government funding runs out, service members “will be paid but their paychecks will be delayed,” Durbin said. For deployed troops, these means they’ll be “calling their spouses to say we’re not going to get our paycheck on time this month and to try to make do.”
Additionally, Durbin predicted that about half of the Defense Department’s 700,000 civilian employees “will be sent home immediately come Tuesday” if government funding has lapsed.
“If we allow this government to shut down, they’ll have to figure out how to make ends meet,” he said.
A shutdown, if it happens, “will be quick,” Durbin said. “The principal agencies will largely go dark within four to eight hours of the shutdown order.”
“All DoD work will stop on weapons and equipment maintenance not directly related to war, bases will not be maintained and we will see a degradation of facilities,” he said. “You’ll see massive disruptions all across this country.”
While the Defense Department will continue to operate with service members and essential employees after a shutdown, Durbin said a gap in funding would “cripple our intelligence community.”
“We rely on their agencies to warn us of threats, to prevent terrorist attacks and inform leaders making critical national security decisions,” he said.