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Rahall joins push to pay full-time Guard members during shutdown

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., joined by 85 of his House colleagues, is urging the Department of Defense to make sure full-time National Guard employees continue to get paid during the government shutdown.

"Our National Guard is a critical component of ensuring that our nation stands prepared to rapidly confront disaster at home and abroad," Rahall said.

National Guard members have repeatedly helped Americans recover from domestic disasters like major floods, as well as serving in war-torn nations like Afghanistan and Iraq.

"We feel that the dual mission of National Guard personnel necessitates that they receive the same consideration as [full-time] service members and support staff," Rahall and his House colleagues stated in a letter sent to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel last Friday.

Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., joined 48 of their Senate colleagues in sending another bipartisan letter to Hagel last Thursday, urging him to continue paying National Guard members across the country.

Just two hours before the federal government shut down last week, Congress passed, and the White House signed, the "Pay Our Military Act" that gave the Defense Department "broad latitude to pay service members and civilians," according to the letter 50 senators sent to Hagel.

"All members of the Armed Forces, including Reserve component personnel who perform active service, will be paid in the event of a government shutdown," the letter added.

"Further, the bill requires that civilian Department of Defense personnel 'providing support to members of the Armed Forces' continue to receive their pay and allowances" during any shutdown.

Rahall and his House colleagues asked Hagel to use his "broad discretion afforded with the passage" of last week's legislation to continue to pay the National Guard.

"Congress took action before the shutdown began to ensure that the men and women of our armed forces, including the Reserves and National Guard, would continue to be paid," Rahall said. "We are pressing the Department of Defense to adhere closely to that policy."

Rockefeller, Manchin and their colleagues who wrote to Hagel said they were concerned that the government continues to pay individual including: National Guard members "who are performing domestic disaster relief and recovery operations," Army Guard reserve members, personnel on short-term active duty missions, and federally-paid civilians working with the Guard, including "firefighters, air traffic controllers and other civilians in direct support of military operations."

Rahall believes furloughing military technicians and state civilian employees "will have a harmful impact on our Nation's military readiness and emergency preparedness.  With this insane shutdown, the House is needlessly hurting the men and women who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so much for the safety of American people."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has been leading efforts to shut down federal government operations until he can force Democrats to reverse some policies in the Affordable Health Care Act.

"The House needs to focus on the harm it is doing to families and businesses and pass legislation quickly to reopen the government and cease this ridiculous political standoff," Rahall said.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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