Texas Republicans Congressman Louie Gohmert and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison discussed on Thursday their military pay bills at a joint press conference on Capitol Hill.
The current debt ceiling debate and negotiations has brought about suspicions that using the scare tactic of holding back pay from military personnel may very well be used as leverage by the leadership of both the GOP and Democrats to get what each side wants in any final outcome.
“[The military] should not be looking at the debate going on, knowing that there is a looming deadline on the debt ceiling and thinking, ‘Am I going to get my paycheck? Am I going to be able to pay my mortgage?’” Ms. Hutchison told reporters on Thursday.
The fear that the military would not be paid if the government shut down during the budget debate back in April was said to be used by GOP leadership as a tactic to get Republican House freshman on board to vote for the last continuing resolution that is currently funding the federal government through September.
Presently, the fear is that the military’s pay will be used again as a bargaining chip during the debt ceiling debate. President Barack Obama has already threatened to cutoff social security checks after August 2, if a resolution to the debt ceiling talks was not met before then.
“This (military pay) is leverage to get people to vote for bills they don’t want to,” Congressman Gohmert said. “They know people do not want to vote in such a way that it causes the military not to be paid. Let’s take this off the table, so we can talk about things on their merits, not because of scare tactics.”
Congressman Darrell Issa, California Republican, told me on Thursday, that he believes everything should be on the table, though.
“I think everything has to be on the table. No one is stronger for the military than I am. I have 49,000 or so Marines—many of them deployed from my district from Camp Pendleton, one of the largest bases in the country,” he said. “The military understands that we have their backs. We’ll protect them in this process of austerity, but I don’t think that anything being off the table is appropriate.”
Congressman Issa warned that Presidet Obama is not willing to fulfill his commitment to keep the government open through September and that the president is willing to shut the government down after the August 2 debt ceiling deadline passes if both Congress and the White House cannot come to an agreement.
“Barack Obama has said he wants to shut down the government by saying that he won’t agree to a 30-60-90 day extension, when in fact, he signed a continuing resolution which goes through September 30,” explained Mr. Issa. “When he signed that, he made a commitment to keep the government running with that amount of funds through the end of September,” he added.
Regardless of strategy differences among GOP members, if President Obama decides to shut down the government as Mr. Issa describes it, military pay will indeed be in jeopardy.
Congressman Gohmert filed his military pay bill (H.R. 1297) back in March that would have taken the issue of military pay off the table during the budget talks. Essentially, the bill, ensures that if the government shuts down, military personnel will be paid nonetheless. However, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Ohio Republican never brought Gohmert’s legislation to the floor for a vote.
Seemingly fed up with waiting for Mr. Boehner to bring the H.R. 1297 to the House floor, Mr. Gohmert filed a discharge petition for his bill on Wednesday and hopes to find the needed 218 members to sign it so the legislation can be forced to the floor for a vote.
Although, Rep. Gohmert’s military pay bill had 190 co-sponsors in March, the Texas Congressman could find resistance among some of those same 190 co-sponsors and others to force his bill to the floor.
Senator Hutchison introduced similar legislation in April, only to have her bill stuck in committee. The Texas Senator currently has 80 co-sponsors supporting her bill in the Senate.
Another military pay bill, proposed by Congressman Steve King, Iowa Republican that is also co-sponsored by Rep. Gohmert and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican and presidential candidate, ensures that the military continues to be paid if the White House and the Congress cannot agree on a debt ceiling agreement by August 2.