Govt. Shutdown: Lawmakers May Get Paid, Soldiers May Not

ABC’s Matthew Jaffe, Luis Martinez and Z. Byron Wolf report:

What exactly will happen if the government shuts down Friday remains something of a mystery. Some federal agencies delayed declaring which employees would be declared “essential” and thus immune. But there’s a very real possibility that lawmakers could continue to draw paychecks while soldiers abroad do not.

Read more about the effects of a government shutdown HERE .

On Capitol Hill last month, Senators voted unanimously that they shouldn’t be paid in the event of a shutdown. The Senate unanimously passed the bill on March 1, but it hasn’t made any headway in the House. House Republicans last week passed a bill that would ensure lawmakers don’t get paid during a shutdown. But it was wrapped inside a larger bill with $61 billion in spending cuts that Senate Democrats have rejected.

21 Senate Democrats have written House Speaker John Boehner to push the GOP to immediately pass the Senate bill that would keep members from being paid during a shutdown. The Senate Democrats’ push has been led by Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and Bob Casey, D-PA.

“We should feel the pain,” Boxer said on Feb. 17. “And we hope that this is such a simple piece of legislation and so fair that it’ll make people think, ‘Gee, maybe I ought to work a little harder at compromising and finding that common ground.’”

Read more about it HERE.

While it appears lawmakers could get paid, there is a real question about the soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan will get their paychecks on time.

A senior administration official told reporters Tuesday that military personnel would continue to earn money when they worked during a shutdown. But they would not actually be paid until Congress passed a funding bill.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Monday the possibility of the Pentagon running out of funding and soldiers not getting paid is “an area of great concern to us,” but added “I am answering you truthfully when I tell you, as I always do, when I tell you that we have not been able yet to arrive at a conclusive determination about how everyone's pay would be impacted by this. “ We are still working through that,” he said. So I don't have a definitive answer for you to relay to our forces in Iraq or Afghanistan. Unfortunately, that's still an issue that's -- that's being worked.”

Morrell said Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn is drafting guidelines for DOD in the eventuality of a government shutdown and they will be published Wednesday afternoon. Lynn’s guidelines will set parameters for the department as to what counts as essential services that would be exempt during a shutdown. This in accordance with OMB’s guidance for prudent planning in case there’s a shutdown.

“He is in the process of putting out guidance to the major components in this department about how they should go about planning for a possible shutdown, including such things as what would constitute aan exempt operation or mission, sort of, an essential operation or mission, and what -- and who would be the necessary personnel to continue to carry that out in the event of a shutdown.” Morrell said that guidance would come out soon and that until it comes out he wouldn’t speculate as to what programs might be affected by a government shutdown.

Back on Capitol Hill, a bipartisan group of lawmakers hurriedly introduced legislation to make sure the 90,000 soldiers in Afghanistan and 45,000 troops in Iraq get paid.

“A government shutdown is in no one’s interest, and I remain hopeful that we will reach an agreement on spending reductions that will fund government until the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2011,” said Sen. Kay Bailiey Hutchison, R-Tex. She is a sponsor of the bill to authorize special funding for military personnel. “I am not willing to place the well-being of our military personnel and their families in the balance as we await a budget agreement. Our troops are serving our country, and our country must continue to serve them.”

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