U.S. Coast Guard members this week became the first branch of the military in the country’s history to go without pay because of a lapse in government appropriations, the leader of the service wrote in a letter to his men and women Tuesday.
Paychecks were supposed to go out Tuesday, but didn’t because of the ongoing budget fight between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over the wall the president wants built along the southern border with Mexico.
“Today, you will not be receiving your regularly scheduled mid-month paycheck,” Adm. Karl L. Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard, wrote in a letter to his service men and women Tuesday. “To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our nation’s history that servicemembers in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations.”
Trump insists that the legislative package to fund the government for the next year include $5.7 billion for his proposed wall. Democrats have refused his demand, contending border security funds would be better spent on technology such as sensors and drones and boosting the number of Border Patrol agents.
As a result of the impasse, more than a quarter of the nation’s federal workforce hasn’t been paid since funding for their agencies and departments expired Dec. 21.
It is the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history, and is impacting everything from airport security screeners to the National Parks to weather forecasting.
While many federal employees not being paid are not working, Coast Guard members must continue to perform rescues at sea and patrol for drug and human smugglers.
“Stay the course, stand the watch and serve with pride,” Schultz stated. “You are not, and will not, be forgotten.”
The Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps have been spared the hardships of the partial shutdown because they are funded under the Department of Defense, which isn’t subject to the budget impasse. But, the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, which is.
Through maneuvering by the White House and Homeland Security, the roughly 42,000 active duty Coast Guard members received their Dec. 31 paycheck, but nothing could be done about their Jan. 15 pay.
Both the Senate and the House introduced companion bills that, if passed, would mandate the Coast Guard is funded regardless of how long a shutdown lasts. But the bills have not moved fast enough for the mid-month pay period.
Schultz encouraged members to seek available aid, including from the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance program, which just received a $15 million donation from the United Services Automobile Association.
“In partnership with CGMA, the American Red Cross will assist in the distribution of these funds to our military and civilian workforce requiring assistance,” Schultz wrote.