Congress votes to avoid shutdown and avoid military pay issues

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Congress passed an interim spending measure on Thursday to keep government open and avoid a disruption in military pay hours before a midnight shutdown.

The Senate voted 65-35 for what’s called a continuing resolution, or CR, that keeps the federal government in the limelight beyond the end of a fiscal year by maintaining funding levels from the previous year. The House followed suit a few hours later, approving CR 254-175.

The funding bill is now heading to President Joe Biden’s office, where he is expected to sign it before government funding runs out tonight.

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In addition to funding the government, the RC would provide approximately $ 6.3 billion in emergency funding to help resettle Afghans who were evacuated after their country fell to the Taliban in August, including providing 2, $ 2 billion to the Pentagon to help house evacuees at US military bases.

The bill also includes $ 28.6 billion in disaster assistance, including $ 565 million for the Navy and $ 330 million for the Air Force to repair facilities damaged by recent disasters. natural.

Due to an unrelated dispute between lawmakers over increasing the country’s borrowing limit, Congress approved the funding with only a few hours to spare. In recent days, this situation has raised fears of delays in military pay, civilian vacations at the Pentagon and other disruptions to the program.

“The department must continue operations necessary for the safety of human life or the protection of property, including support operations to other federal agencies related to evacuees from Afghanistan,” wrote the deputy secretary to the Defense Kathleen Hicks in a note last week about a possible shutdown. .

During a shutdown, active-duty troops continue to work but do not receive a paycheck unless separate legislation is passed. This has happened three times since 2013.

The base salary as well as the housing and living allowances that military personnel depend on may be affected, a congressional aide told Military.com. Recruitment and retention bonuses could also cease.

“The financial impact on the military, especially young people enlisted from paycheck to paycheck, will be significant,” the aide said.

Reservists called up on active duty would also have continued to work during the shutdown without pay, although idle duty duties would have ceased, under Pentagon shutdown guidelines.

Coast Guard troops, which report to the Department of Homeland Security rather than the Pentagon, would also remain on duty, with pay depending on “when credits expire,” according to agency guidelines.

Civilian Pentagon employees in jobs deemed essential, such as employees “necessary to protect life and properly”, could have continued to work without pay. More than 350,000 employees are expected to fall into this category, according to Pentagon guidelines.

According to the guidelines, another 429.00 civilian Pentagon employees should have faced time off or leave without pay.

Permanent job changes for military and civilian personnel would be limited, while temporary mission travel and conference attendance would have been canceled, unless they directly support U.S. military counterterrorism operations, according to Note.

Military medical and dental care would continue, although elective procedures are not allowed during shutdowns. Child care may also continue, and Department of Defense schools may also remain open during a closure, but extracurricular activities are not permitted. Almost all the commissioners in the United States would close.

Processing of medical care and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs reportedly continued, but “administrative work, whistleblower protection efforts and relations with Congress would be affected,” according to a second congressional aide. A third congressional aide said about 96% of VA employees could continue working in the event of a shutdown because some credits were approved in advance.

The second Aid also pointed out that about a third of the federal workforce is made up of veterans who would be “deeply affected” by a stoppage.

Thursday’s congressional action avoids those consequences for now, but lawmakers could address a similar issue in December.

The bill approved Thursday funds the government until Dec. 3, and Congress has made little progress on annual spending bills to fund the government beyond that date.

In July, the House approved a set of seven spending bills that included VA funding, but it did not take over the Pentagon spending bill that was passed by the House Appropriations Committee plus early that same month. The Senate has yet to consider fiscal 2022 spending bills.

– Rebecca Kheel can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.

Related: How a government shutdown affects military pay and benefits

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