Some military families took a breath of cautionary relief Monday when a deal appeared to have been reached in the Senate to end a short government shutdown.
“When this filibuster started we thought, ‘oh, no, it’s happening all over again,’” said Emily Erickson, the wife of an Air Force staff sergeant stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, a sprawling installation outside Las Vegas. “A lot of us are afraid, and worried we’ve reached a point where we think maybe the senators won’t listen to us, that we’re all just faceless individuals.”
Erickson was referring to the 2013 government shutdown, a 16-day affair that unfolded behind a bill guaranteeing military service members would be paid. In this case, no such arrangement was made, leading to some paranoia on the part of Erickson and others.
Service members are paid on the 1st and the 15th each month, meaning they were fine until Feb. 1. A Pentagon spokesman said Monday afternoon that with a deal reportedly in the offing on Capitol Hill, the short shutdown will have no financial impact for service members.
The prospect of another shutdown in February, however, still looms, according to Kelly Hruska[cq], the director of government relations with the National Military Family Association.
“It’s great news,” Hruska said of the reported deal. “Now we just have to hope they get something done by the 8th so we don’t have to go through all of this again.”
Erickson, 30, said she remains a firm supporter of President Trump, but she did not take sides in the shutdown. Instead, she believed both sides had carelessly used service members as leverage.
“It’s the Senate as a whole – not the Democrats, not the Republicans – the Senate as a whole that has forgotten what it’s for which is this nation’s business,” she said. “Instead, they are putting their own agendas first. While I feel empathy for the ‘Dreamers’ they are here illegally and the idea the military would be used as a bargaining chip on that has to stop.”
Indeed, it looked Monday as if that had happened, with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) agreeing to hold a full floor debate on immigration in return for Democrats withdrawing their support of the filibuster from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that had shut down the government’s non-essential operations. National Parks, for example, were largely closed, with calls to the two most-visited, Yosemite and the Great Smoky Mountains, bouncing hopelessly among automated responses.
In the past, such shutdowns ultimately redound to federal employees credit, as they receive back pay for the time they missed. The United States has just over 1.5 million in active duty across the four branches of military service, and hundreds of thousands more in various reserve capacities, according to Defense Department figures.
But future pay does not a present smile bring.
“The landlord doesn’t say, ‘oh, that’s OK, I know you’ll get paid eventually,’ and the grocery store doesn’t say, ‘it’s fine if you will have money later,’” Erickson said.
She acknowledged she was not speaking on behalf of other Air Force wives, and said her husband, Christopher Erickson, did not know she had reached out to the media. News a deal had been reached helped ease the tension, although it did not erase the fear it could arise again.
“Yes, I’m relieved that I won’t have to decide which bills to pay when the 1st rolls around,” she said. “But the fact remains that I’m still disappointed in the Senate for using the government shut down as a bargaining tool. They are directly responsible for the fact that thousands of citizens who work for the government aren’t paid during these shut downs, not just military. They don’t take into account what it does to us and our lives and our economy because they are more worried about getting other issues passed than about their own American citizens.”
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