Military veterans and the National Guard are pawns in the congressional battle over the partial federal government shutdown.
Indiana Sen. Dan Coats and 3rd District Rep. Marlin Stutzman are among Republican lawmakers pushing legislation that would restore pay for civilian members of the National Guard and resume funding for suspended veterans programs.
Congress should “make sure that the men and women who have served our country do not pay the price for Washington’s failure to govern,” Coats, an Army veteran, said Wednesday in a floor speech broadcast by C-SPAN.
During the second day of the shutdown, Democrats accused the GOP of favoring some federal agencies over others that have lost funding, such as preschool education, nutrition assistance and food inspections.
“We can’t cherry-pick our way through the funding of government,” Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said on the House floor.
The Republican House later approved provisions to fund national parks and monuments and the National Institutes of Health. Votes on the proposals related to the National Guard and veterans might come today.
Leaders in the Democratic Senate have stressed they will resist piecemeal efforts to extend lapsed appropriations into fiscal 2014, which began Tuesday. And the White House issued a statement Wednesday saying President Barack Obama would veto such legislation.
Stutzman introduced legislation Wednesday to amend a new law that funds active-duty military personnel to include civilians in the National Guard. A similar proposal was introduced by Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
“The men and women who serve in our nation’s National Guard and their families should not be victims of President Obama and Senate Democrats’ shutdown,” Stutzman said in a statement about the budget impasse.
The National Guard this week furloughed 1,000 members in Indiana, including 216 civilian technicians at the 122nd Fighter Wing in Fort Wayne. Those technicians account for two-thirds of the full-time personnel at the local Air National Guard base, which remains open during the government shutdown.
Col. David Augustine, the base commander, is a civilian technician but has been exempted from the furloughs by Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, the adjutant general of Indiana, according to a spokeswoman at the Indiana National Guard.
The furlough of National Guard members “is so unfair to our Hoosier heroes who fight every day,” Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd, said during a House speech.
A separate bill would have the Department of Veterans Affairs continue funding for disability payments, education assistance and home-loan guarantees. The department estimates that as many as 55,000 veterans lived in Stutzman’s northeast Indiana district in 2011.
A spokesman for the VA Northern Indiana Health Care System said this week that its facilities, including the VA Medical Center in Fort Wayne, will remain fully operational during the partial government shutdown.
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