Uncertainty about a law to pay the military during the federal government shutdown has resulted in the Arkansas National Guard halting operations that could result in no pay to almost 10,000 Arkansas Guard members.
Failure by the U.S. House and Senate to agree on a continuing resolution to fund government operations resulted in a shutdown in some federal services. The Democratic-controlled Senate rejected a continuing resolution bill from the Republican-controlled House that included funding and exemption changes to Obamacare.
The shutdown, which began Tuesday, resulted in the furlough of an estimated 800,000 of 3.3 million federal employees. Essential federal operations to continue include Social Security payments, U.S. Postal Service operations, air traffic controllers and TSA agents, food and drug inspection programs and federal law enforcement operations.
“Troops and their families will continue to be paid, thanks to a bill passed by the House of Representatives on Saturday and signed by the President last night,” noted a statement from the office of U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle.
However, officials with the Arkansas National Guard announced Wednesday (Oct. 2) they would delay October training because of funding issues related to the federal shutdown.
“The government shutdown triggered a lapse in funding forcing the Arkansas National Guard to delay monthly weekend duty training, known as drill, until further notice,” noted the Guard statement. “The delay impacts nearly 10,000 Guardsmen across the state.”
Directly furloughed were about 1,430 members of the military in Arkansas who are either “dual-status federal employees” or employees of the Arkansas Military Department.
"This is the second time this year dual-status federal employees have endured furlough," Maj. Gen. William Wofford, the Adjutant General of Arkansas, said in the statement. "Many are still recovering from the furlough earlier this year."
The Guard statement said HR 3210 – the “Pay Our Military Act” signed into law Monday by President Barack Obama – does continue military pay for the active duty military, but is not clear on if it funds National Guard operations.
"I hope Congress will consider adding the National Guard to this statute," said Wofford, "It shouldn't mean pay some of our military; it means pay all of them."
UPDATED INFO: Cotton’s office said the U.S. House on Thursday will vote on legislation including pay for Guard members.
“Tomorrow the House will vote on legislation that would allow the guardsmen to be paid. These hard-working men and women deserve to be compensated for their service to our country. They should not be penalized because the Senate Democrats refuse to give up their special Obamacare exemption,” noted the statement from Cotton’s office.
HR 3230 – the “Pay Our Guard and Reserve Act” – is on the list of bills to be considered this week in the U.S. House. It is uncertain if the U.S. Senate will act in time for Guard members to be assured pay for the Oct. 5-6 weekend.
Arkansas Guard officials are asking all members to stay in contact with their unit leadership and the Arkansas National Guard Facebook site.
Campaign officials with U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., were quick to criticize Cotton for voting to tie federal funding to the Obamacare funding and exemption changes. Cotton is challenging Pryor in the 2014 election for the Senate seat.
“When Congressman Cotton said he was prepared to shut down the government, he showed a troubling disconnect with reality that is right now hurting hard-working Arkansans like our National Guardsmen, many of whom are combat veterans,” Jeff Weaver, Pryor for Senate campaign manager, said in a statement. “This isn’t the first time Congressman Cotton has opposed reasonable solutions for Arkansas families, as evidenced by his votes against affordable student loans, disaster aid, the Farm Bill and the Violence Against Women act – Arkansans are tired of the dysfunction in Washington that Congressman Cotton irresponsibly seeks to exploit.”