Troops once again caught in political crossfire

Matt Saintsing
January 22, 2018 - 1:59 pm
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks to a crowd of deployed service members assigned to the 332d Air Expeditionary Wing January 21, 2018 at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. Pence’s visit came as part of an extended trip across the Middle East.

(Photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz)

Republicans over the weekend intensified charges that Democrats are leaving the military behind, hoping that the image of unpaid troops will be a main weapon for the GOP in the current standoff over the government shutdown.

Congressional Republicans, President Donald Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence all accused Democrats of holding America’s war fighters hostage in this particular moment of intense partisanship.

Vice President Mike Pence

“Despite bipartisan support for a budget resolution, a minority in the Senate has decided to play politics with military pay," Pence said at a base near the Syrian border. “But you deserve better. You and your families shouldn't have to worry about getting paid.”

One left-leaning veterans’ organization criticized Pence’s comments appearing before the troops as doing what he claims the Democrats of doing: politicizing the armed forces.

Military Pay

Democrats shot back accusing Senate Republicans of being hypocrites while emphasizing that the GOP had blocked a single bill that would keep paychecks, and other financial benefits flowing to the military.

“Sen. Claire McCaskill offered a unanimous consent request so that there would be no interruption, none whatsoever, in the payment of the men and women in the military in service to our country,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Sunday on “This Week.”

“Sen. McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, objected,” he added. “Now that's a matter of record. So we don't want to in any way diminish our commitment to our troops start to finish.”

McConnell did note, however, lawmakers could take the initiative up for consideration if the shutdown dragged on.

"My hope is that we can restore funding for the entire government before this becomes necessary," he said after midnight Friday.

"I'm going to object for tonight, but we'll discuss again tomorrow."

Congress passed such legislation during the previous government shutdown in 2013.

The shutdown took effect at midnight Friday. Active-duty military, and essential civilians are continuing their work, but won’t get paid until Congress reaches a deal on the budget.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth spars with Trump

No other soundbite went viral like that of Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) who blasted President Trump as a “five-deferment draft dodger.”

“Does he even know that there are service members who are in harm’s way right now, watching him, looking for their commander in chief to show leadership, rather than to try to deflect blame?” she said.

“Or that his own Pentagon says that the short-term funding plans he seems intent on pushing is actually harmful to not just the military, but to our national security?”

Duckworth lost both of her legs in a 2004 helicopter crash while serving in Iraq.

Her speech on the Senate floor was prompted by a series of tweets Mr. Trump had posted Saturday, including one accusing Democrats of “holding our military hostage” to have “unchecked illegal immigration.”

Sen. John McCain weighs in

At least one lawmaker, Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) offered a moment of clarity and claimed both parties are to blame for the shutdown.

"The government shutdown is a direct result of the breakdown of cooperation in Congress," McCain said in a statement. "As Republicans and Democrats run to cable news to point fingers and assign blame, the hard reality is that all of us share responsibility for this failure."

That’s because both parties hardened their positions around partisan issues with funding for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the military hanging in the balance.

"For years, under both a Republican and Democrat-controlled Congress and White House, partisanship has taken precedent over national security," McCain said.

"Political gamesmanship, an unwillingness to compromise, and a lack of resolve on both sides have led us to this point."