The Senate unanimously passed a House bill to pay on time all active-duty and reserve members of the armed forces, as well as any civilians and contractors working in support of those forces, in the event of a government shutdown.
The House also passed the bill unanimously early Sunday morning; it will now head to President Obama for his signature. Previous statute dictated that members of the military and excepted Defense Department civilians required to work during a shutdown only receive pay once Congress passed a continuing resolution or an appropriations bill and government reopened.
In addition to the 1.4 million members of the military, civilians and contractors who “provide support to members of the armed forces” in both the Defense and Homeland Security departments would now receive their salaries on time. The departments’ secretaries would determine which employees qualify for immediate pay.
DHS excepted about 200,000 employees in its shutdown contingency plan, although that number includes about 41,000 active duty Coast Guard personnel. The Defense Department has excepted about half its 800,000 civilians.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has attempted to derail the Senate’s efforts to pass a spending bill that does not include a provision to defund the 2010 Affordable Care Act, praised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for taking up the bill.
“The men and women who risk their lives defending this nation should not have their paychecks delayed,” Cruz said from the Senate floor.
Congress has until 11:59 p.m. Monday evening to pass a spending bill and avoid a shutdown, though many lawmakers have said that is becoming increasingly unlikely.