Government Shutdown and Military Pay – Why is this one different from 1995?

Without getting into the merits of a shutdown in general or where to draw the line between essential and non-essential government employees, I am disturbed by news that is being reported by numerous sources (AP, Christian Science Monitor, ABC News, etc.) that it is not certain the military would be paid if a shutdown were to occur.

How is this possible?  Surely, there is nobody in Congress or the White House who is opposed to paying those who we’ve asked to go into harm’s way on our behalf.  And, I don’t remember this being an issue in 1995 when the government was famously shutdown in a clash between Democrat President Bill Clinton and Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.  According to the Military Times, my recollection is correct:

When the government was shut down in 1995, military personnel continued to report to work and were paid, but the planning guidance sent to the services and defense agencies says a shutdown this time will be different.

What’s changed?  Why has it changed?  And, more importantly, why hasn’t this been taken off the table?  As I understand it, US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) has introduced The Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act of 2011, legislation to prevent this from happening.  The bill has 34 cosponsors, including at least three Democrats.  I’ve got to believe this is the kind of legislation that everyone can agree on to ensure that, no matter what happens as the House, Senate, and White House negotiate over government spending for the rest of this fiscal year, those who are in the midst of fighting three wars (or two wars and a kinetic military action) get paid.


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