commentary

printed 01/11/2019

As of Thursday morning, the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, sat on the legislative calendar under “General Orders,” which means members of the Senate might or might not get to it before next Tuesday.

In addition, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he won’t entertain any legislation the president won’t sign, so there’s a question about that as well.

The House version of the measure was introduced Wednesday and referred to the House Appropriations Committee. It has a better chance of success there, but it remains to be seen whether the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House will produce a merged version that will be signed by the president and become law in time to make next Tuesday’s Coast Guard payroll. Or the payroll after that, or …

The only thing crew members at Coast Guard Station in Ocean City know is their last paychecks were issued on Dec. 31 and the next ones in their two-week pay cycle are due Jan. 15.

They also know they must continue to do their jobs with or without pay because they have no choice as members of the armed forces.

And yes, the Coast Guard is one of the country’s five branches of the military, even though it’s often treated differently by the federal government because it’s the smallest, with about 41,000 active duty personnel. That makes it easy, one supposes, to overlook.

It’s also billeted under the Department of Homeland Security, rather than the Defense Department, because it’s also a law enforcement agency, and therefore subject to this government shutdown over a multi-billion-dollar border wall that may or may not be vital to our well-being.

The Coast Guard, however, is the wall we do need. It’s responsible for migrant interdictions and preventing drug smuggling along 95,000 miles of U.S. coastline. And it might not get paid.

Landlords, loan companies and grocery stores want their money, and the electric and phone bills won’t be put on hold.

If these Pay Our Coast Guard bills aren’t approved and signed by next Tuesday, there’s something so wrong with our system and our priorities that no wall anywhere is going to fix it.

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