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Armed Services chairman: Not shutting down government is 'moral obligation'

Armed Services chairman: Not shutting down government is 'moral obligation'
© Greg Nash

The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee says it’s a “moral obligation” not to shut down the government, but added that he didn’t doubt President Trump has the best interests of the military in mind.

“When men and women volunteer to risk their lives to defend us, we have a moral obligation to support them in every way possible,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) told reporters. “And I have no doubt the president shares that view, because I’ve heard him say it explicitly.”

Thornberry was responding to a question from The Hill about Trump’s tweets Tuesday that call for a “good shutdown” in September.

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"The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good 'shutdown' in September to fix mess!" Trump wrote in a series of tweets.

Congress unveiled this week a bipartisan spending agreement that will avert a government shutdown at the end of this week. The agreement leaves out many of Trump’s priorities, including funding for a border wall, though it does include Republican priorities such as a $15 billion boost for defense.

The Pentagon and defense hawks have long warned about the dangers to national security that government shutdowns bring by sidelining the Defense Department’s civilian workforce and lowering productivity.

The 2013 shutdown is estimated to have cost the Pentagon at least $600 million in lost productivity.

Active-duty troops continue working in a shutdown, but are not paid unless Congress passes an exception that allows them to receive a paycheck.

Thornberry said he shares Trump’s frustration with the legislative branch but said shutdowns are not good for the country. 

“It would be better for the country if the Pentagon and the military do not shut down, because the threats to the country do not shut down,” Thornberry said. “My impression is the president is frustrated with the legislative process, especially in the other body, and I share that frustration for sure.”