1 October 2013 Legislative News Update 


Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.

In this issue:

  • No Way To Do Business


“This is a sad day and it’s disgraceful.”

AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA. Ret., on the government shutdown.

The classic Washington blame game is in full force while the Nation scrambles to figure out what is open, what is closed and who should be at work. 

With no time to spare, the House approved a series of continuing resolutions (CR) they knew would not clear the Senate because of added provisions that impacted the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  The Senate stripped the provisions from the bills and returned them to the House. 

On the Sunday morning talk shows, Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said that “the House position, which is basically the same one that they sent us the last time, is going to be rejected again.  And we are going to face the prospect of the government shutting down come midnight Monday night.”

In return, House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, criticized the Senate for not coming into session on Sunday and “bringing the nation to the brink of a government shutdown for the sake of raising taxes on seniors’ pacemakers and children’s hearing aids and plowing ahead with the train wreck that is the president’s health care law.”

The heated rhetoric and blame game continued on Monday.  Late Monday, the House agreed to a motion to establish a bicameral conference committee to reconcile differences between the two chambers’ short-term, stopgap spending bills, but that too was rejected by the Senate. 

Accordingly, Monday at midnight the government shut down for the first time in 17 years. 

The Department of Defense will continue to conduct military operations and training exercises because active-duty uniformed military personnel will stay on the job.  However, that is not the story for civilian workers.  Of the department’s 800,000 civilian workers, about half will be furloughed.  Those deemed essential because they are critical to safety missions, or are actively participating in or supporting a military operation, will continue to work. 

All active duty and civilian employees will receive their pay on Oct 1; however, if the shutdown continues, only active-duty members, including reservists on full-time active duty, and those DoD and Homeland Security Department civilians and contractors who are determined to be “providing support to members of the armed forces” will receive an Oct 15 paycheck.  That’s because Congress pushed through a measure on Sept. 30 that will exempt those groups from the shutdown. 

Medical services offered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will not be affected by a shutdown.  However, benefits programs will probably be affected.  VA’s regional offices handling disability claims will have limited services, and the Veterans Benefits Administration will be unable to process education and rehabilitation benefits.  The Board of Veterans' Appeals will be unable to hold hearings.  The VA projects that 95 percent of its 332,000 employees are exempt from furloughs, including the 289,000 who work for the Veterans Health Administration.  The department estimates that 14,224 of its employees face furloughs, including more than 7,200 who work for the Veterans Benefits Administration, 3,200 IT workers and more than 1,000 who work for the National Cemetery Administration.

How long the government remains closed is anyone’s guess.  However, it could easily merge with the upcoming mid-October battle over a raise in the debt ceiling. 

We, at AUSA, are asking for your help.  Please visit the AUSA’s website www.ausa.org.  Click on the “Contact Congress” link and then on the prepared letter “Stop the Budget Madness!!” to let your representatives and senators know that it is time to stop this nonsense and return to business as usual.  After you send your letter, tell 10 of your closest friends and family to send their own letter.