The sun rises over the Capitol on Sept. 25. The government will shutdown on Tuesday if Congress cannot pass a funding bill. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
Showdown over a shutdown
The Pentagon issued a memo Friday with instructions on how the military will respond in the event of a government shutdown on Tuesday.
Active-duty troops will report to work as usual next week regardless, yet a large swath of the Defense Department’s civilian workforce could be placed on temporarily furlough if lawmakers cannot agree on a new budget agreement before the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.
Paychecks for the roughly 1.4 million active-duty troops may be delayed if the shutdown continues in the run-up to the payday on Oct. 15, but troops will be entitled to retroactive pay if and when the government resumes routine operations.
On military installations, mess halls, fitness centers, schools and child care facilities will remain open. In some cases, service members may be assigned to roles typically filled by civilians who are furloughed, according to the Pentagon’s nine-page memo distributed Friday.
Most temporary-duty travel scheduled to occur after a government shutdown will be canceled. Temporary-duty travel in support of the operations in Afghanistan and other assignments directly related to the “safety of life and protection of property” will require approval from a service secretary or other top official.
It remains unclear precisely how many of the roughly 800,000 Defense Department civilians will be exempted from the furloughs. The Defense Department’s memo defines essential activities in broad terms. Civilians can be exempted if they are required for “military operations and activities authorized by deployment or execute orders, or otherwise approved by the Secretary of Defense, and determined to be necessary for national security, including administrative, logistical, medical or other activities in direct support of such operation or activities.”
Military deployment orders will remain in effect and permanent travel, including separation orders, will be not be canceled. Recruiting will continue. The government shutdown will have no immediate impact on the flow of new service members into entrance processing centers and boot camps, according to the memo.
Support services provided by military contractors will continue for contracts awarded before a government shutdown. But new contracts cannot be awarded during a shutdown, the memo said.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the Senate on Friday passed a funding measure that would keep the Pentagon and other federal agencies open through mid-November, pressuring House Speaker John Boehner to act.
By passing a continuing resolution, the Democratic-controlled Senate shifted the burden of avoiding a government shutdown to Boehner and House GOP leaders.
Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, House Republican Conference deputy whip, told reporters Friday morning that GOP leaders have yet to decide how to proceed.
Asked when the lower chamber would either take up and amend the Senate-passed CR or vote on its own version, Cole said, “Probably not today.”
“I think we’re still trying to see where we’re at on that,” Cole said.
The Senate’s version is an amended version of a House-passed CR from earlier this month. The House included language Senate Democratic leaders called “toxic riders,” including a controversial one that proposed killing funding for President Obama’s signature health care law.
“I think, probably, the House will send something back,” Cole said. “What that’s going to be, I don’t know yet.”
The GOP leadership member told reporters senior House Republicans are still talking with members of their caucus and among themselves about just what the chamber will take up, with the government slated to shut down at 12 a.m. on Tuesday.
House GOP leaders likely will schedule a Sunday vote on what will be the third version of a CR.
Cole said leaders likely will send back legislation “that the Senate can’t say no to,” meaning it will closely resemble the Senate-passed measure — and likely include less-controversial riders and no health care reform language.
Staff Writer John Bennett contributed to this report