Lawmakers are moving to protect U.S. troops’ pay as the clock ticks toward a potential government shutdown this weekend.
“We put provisions not just for active duty, it’s also for [Department of Defense] civilians and contractors, and for Coast Guard, so that they would get a paycheck no matter what happened,” Rep. Jen Kiggans, R-Va., a Navy veteran who is leading the measure in the House, told Fox News Digital in an interview on Wednesday.
“Obviously, we want to not shut the government down and that is something that we are still working hard late into the night to get done,” Kiggans said. “But God forbid that doesn’t happen, we need to have… that reassurance for people, a group of people that I care very passionately about and that the country needs to be prioritizing, and that’s our military.”
Disagreements in the House and Senate over how to proceed with funding the government past the Sept. 30 fiscal year deadline are making lawmakers increasingly concerned about potential fallout.
If the government shuts down without a defense funding bill in place — which has yet to pass in the House or Senate — members of the Armed Forces as well as non-military Pentagon staff will not get paychecks until funding is resolved.
Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh told CNN on Tuesday that over one million troops and non-military personnel could go without pay until the government is funded.
“It’s just becoming almost, I think of it as almost like a political game. And using the military to play a game with that as a political pawn is certainly not right,” Kiggans said.
Kiggans, whose district has a heavy military presence, introduced the bill on Thursday night. It’s since seen bipartisan support and a companion bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.
But in those six days, Congress has not made much meaningful progress toward averting a shutdown. Asked if she was more worried now than before, Kiggans said bluntly: “It changes every 15 minutes.”
She also signaled that her bill would be a priority for the House if the government did shut down.
“We’re still very, very focused on what we’re doing to ensure that funding doesn’t stop. But if it did, God forbid, yes, we are next in line,” Kiggans said.
The House is expected to vote on multiple spending bills this week, though it’s not certain they have enough support to pass. That includes the defense spending bill, which some hardliners oppose over $300 million allocated to Ukraine among its provisions.
On the eve of a 16-day government shutdown in 2013, lawmakers scrambled to pass legislation to keep troops paid for its duration, according to the Military Times.
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