Congress divided as shutdown again threatens troop pay
WASHINGTON — It was Obamacare in 2013 and Planned Parenthood last year.
Call it déjà vu all over again – Congress is risking a government shutdown that could freeze troop pay and squeeze civilian defense workers, this time over the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Senate Democrats and Republicans, who were unable to craft an annual budget on time, were still fighting Tuesday over aid for Flint and a stop-gap measure to temporarily keep money flowing after Friday to the Defense Department and the rest of the federal government.
A year ago, troops were also facing a pay freeze and civilians were warned of furloughs as Congress tangled over a Republican effort to defund Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit reproductive health care provider that backs abortions. A funding emergency was averted at the last moment, but a 2013 shutdown over attempts to defund Obamacare resulted in 350,000 Defense Department workers being furloughed without pay for about a week.
The Pentagon said Tuesday it had not yet warned employees of a possible shutdown, which could indeed cause a hold on pay checks and furloughs, because its congressional liaisons believed Congress could still solve the funding dispute. Active-duty troops would likely be entitled to back pay if the government shuts down.
With just four days left, Democrats in the Senate dug in Tuesday afternoon and scuttled two attempts to hold a vote on a temporary spending bill crafted by Republicans because it lacked money for Flint.
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