If lawmakers are unable to pass a budget before the April 8 deadline, soldiers will stop getting their paychecks. Meanwhile, President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and the rest of our federally elected representatives will continue to get paid. The comparison is quickly becoming the easiest way to frame the point of how the people who are responsible for averting a government shutdown will be shielded from its impact. Thus, headlines like "Boehner to Be Paid as Soldiers Wait If Government Closes," which is running on Julianna Goldman's Bloomberg report.
The President and members of Congress will be paid during a shutdown, in part because their salaries aren't paid out of regular appropriations bills but instead through a mandatory spending statute. If they want to change that, they'll have to pass new legislation. The Senate unanimously passed such a bill in March, but it went nowhere in the House. Some politicians are smart enough to realize this situation doesn't offer the best optics, which is why Sen. Joe Machin, Barbara Boxer, and several other legislators are now pledging that they won't take a salary if the government shuts down.
Working for free would put them on even terms with the soldiers currently fighting our three wars who will have to show up for work (and get shot at) without pay. "Essential" federal employees--which also includes federal law enforcement--will keep doing their jobs until a budget is passed and will then get backpay. If the government shuts down tomorrow night, military members will get half a paycheck, as April 8 falls in the middle of their pay period. If the impasse lasts through the end of the month, they'll miss a paycheck. The Department of Veterans Affairs is funded by multi-year appropriations and will stay open, Stars and Stripes' Chris Carrollreports.
When Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited troops at Camp Victory, Iraq, on Thursday, the first question from a soldier was whether they'd get paid if the government shuts down. "You know, as a historian, it always occurred to me that the smart thing for government was always to pay the guys with guns first," Gates said, according to Stripes' Kevin Baron. Gates assured the soldiers that they'd get their money. Eventually.