A new bill would protect the paychecks of U.S. Coast Guard personnel in the event of a government shutdown. The legislation comes as U.S. lawmakers have little time left to pass a new spending measure or face a government shutdown at midnight Saturday.
Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., who Chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, is introducing on Friday the Coast Guard Sustained Funding Act of 2023, which was provided first to The Center Square.
The Pentagon has warned that a shutdown without a Defense appropriations bill passed would mean many troops would not receive pay. In the past, Congress has either passed that appropriations bill or passed a specific bill to make sure troops get paid.
Other military members have better protections of their paychecks if a shutdown happens, but the Coast Guard is not as well protected as it is under the Department of Homeland Security, not benefiting from Department of Defense funding. DOD funding can also more reliably be passed while Homeland Security funding is more likely to get entangled in partisan debates over immigration.
“The men and women of the Coast Guard are essential for national security and economic prosperity,” Green said. “In carrying out their wide mission set, our brave Coast Guardsmen put their lives on the line to secure our waters, enforce our laws, and rescue those in peril. Their work is the definition of essential.”
Other legislation, such as the Pay Our Coast Guard Parity Act of 2023 introduced earlier this year by Rep. Hillary Scholten, D-Mich., addresses the same issue.
Another bill, the “Pay our Troops Act,” which has a similar counterpart in the Senate, would ensure all U.S. servicemembers are paid in the event of a government shutdown, including the U.S. Coast Guard and some Pentagon civilian employees and federal contractors.
“Currently, if the government shuts down without a funding bill for the Department of Defense signed into law, those serving in our Armed Forces will not receive their paychecks,” the office of Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter, R-Ga., who is a cosponsor of that legislation, said in a press release. “Only those deemed ‘essential’ would receive back pay once a shutdown ends and new federal funding is approved.”
Despite all these varying legislative efforts, Congress has not yet passed any measure of this kind into law, and the looming government shutdown has brought the issue back to the forefront.
Green’s bill will likely not be passed before the impending shutdown deadline this weekend, but it could protect Coast Guard personnel in the future from lapses in spending legislation.
“My bill will protect the livelihoods of our Coast Guard members and their families,” Green added.
Cosponsors for Green’s legislation include, among other members, House Homeland Subcommittee on Border Security and Enforcement Chairman Clay Higgins, R-La., and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas.
A similar bill has already been introduced in the Senate. The “Pay Our Coast Guard Act,” which has bipartisan support, would treat Coast Guard personnel like other U.S. servicemembers. Sen. Ted Cruz., R-Texas, took the Senate floor last week ahead of the possible government shutdown to raise the issue.
“During the last government shutdown, which ended in 2019, members of a single branch of the armed forces—the Coast Guard—worked without paychecks for 34 days, oftentimes alongside service members who were still being paid,” said Cruz, who is a leader on the bill. “The Defense Department was funded, but the Homeland Security Department was not, so I joined with several Senate colleagues to advance a bill that would have treated members of the Coast Guard the same as those in the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps.”
“That bill was brought up before the entire U.S. Senate by unanimous consent but was blocked by the Democratic Leader,” he added.