OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Pentagon civilians furloughed as shutdown takes effect

The piecemeal approach follows the House’s move Saturday to pass a bill that would continue paying the military in the event of a shutdown, which President Obama signed into law Monday after it was passed in the Senate by unanimous consent.

Republicans argued that the bills for the VA, parks and D.C. were the same idea, and a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner called the White House’s veto threat “unsustainably hypocritical.”

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A White House spokesman said that if Republicans were “legitimately concerned” about the impacts of a government shutdown, they should pass a clean stopgap funding measure.

"These piecemeal efforts are not serious, and they are no way to run a government," White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said.

Amid the gridlock Monday, some hope emerged for furloughed civilians eager to return to work.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that Pentagon lawyers were looking at the law to determine whether civilians currently furloughed could be allowed to return to work while the government remains shut down. The Pentagon has furloughed roughly half of its civilian workforce.

To Boehner and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck Mckeon, the law is clear: bring civilians back to work.

McKeon (R-Calif.) wrote to Hagel on Monday, saying that the law allowed the Pentagon “broad latitude” to let civilians to continue working in a shutdown.

“I believe the legislation provides you broad latitude and I encourage you to use it,” McKeon wrote.

Boehner was more critical, as a spokesman issued statement accusing the White House of “using DOD workers to play political games.”

“So far, the Defense Department has narrowly interpreted the measure — against congressional intent — and decided to furlough DOD civilian employees who support our troops,” the statement said.

Hagel said Tuesday while traveling in South Korea that the Pentagon hoped it could bring more civilians back to work.

“Our lawyers believe that maybe we can expand the exempt status. We don't know if that's the case, but we are exploring that, so that we could cut back from the furloughs some of the civilians that had to leave,” he said.

Delay of game: The Pentagon has suspended the Navy-Air Force football game scheduled for Saturday due to the government shutdown.

“As a result of the government shutdown, the Department of Defense has suspended all intercollegiate athletic competitions at the Service Academies,” the Naval Academy said in a statement.

The Naval Academy said it would make a decision on the football game before Thursday at noon. Whether or not there is a game will depend on whether members of Congress and President Obama come to a resolution to fund the government before then.

Another football game between Army and Boston College is scheduled for Saturday in Massachusetts.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is a Naval Academy graduate, said that if the game was canceled, “the apocalypse is upon us.”

But he still held out hope that the game would proceed.

“I predict we will see a resolution of this before the weekend,” McCain said.

Game on: The government shutdown is not stopping congressional defense committees from holding hearings — and one is now scheduled to examine how the government shutdown is affecting the military.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Tuesday that his committee will tack on the impact of a shutdown to a previously scheduled hearing next week on sequestration.

“We had a hearing scheduled on the impact of sequester. It’s going to include both the impact of sequester and shutdown, assuming it’s shut down,” Levin said.

And while numerous committees have canceled their hearings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday amid the shutdown, the House Armed Services Committee will still hold its hearing Wednesday on the impact of sequestration on military readiness.

House Armed Services Committee chief Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) intends "to move ahead with committee activities contingent upon witness availability," panel spokesman Claude Chafin said.

Marine Corps readiness chief Lt. Gen. William Faulkner and Army logistics chief Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason are scheduled to appear before the House panel.

The two general officers were initially scheduled to appear before the House panel in late September, but the hearing was delayed due to House votes.

Heinrich lifts Air Force hold: One of at least two holds on the nominee to be the next Air Force secretary was lifted on Tuesday.

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said in a statement he dropped his hold on Deborah Lee James’s confirmation to be Air Force secretary.

Heinrich said last week that the hold was due to a local issue, though at the time he did not say what it was specifically.

In a statement Tuesday, he said that he was dropping his hold after receiving assurances that the Air Force would fund the Operationally Responsive Space program at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque through 2014.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) has also placed a hold on James’s nomination over potential Air Force cuts to the A-10 fleet.

Emails to Ayotte’s communications office about the status of the hold were not returned on Tuesday because the spokesmen were furloughed. 


In Case You Missed It:

— McKeon tells Pentagon to end civilian furloughs

— Feinstein: Shutdown ‘biggest gift’ to enemies

— North Korea threat ‘toned down,’ say commanders

— Hagel: Shutdown hurts US credibility abroad

— McCain backs Camp Bastion firings

— Iraqi special visa program expires


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