U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Subcommittee Ranking Member Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Subcommittee Chair Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) have introduced the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, bicameral, bipartisan legislation that would ensure Coast Guard personnel receive pay and allowances in the event of a government shutdown if the members of the Armed Forces receive pay and allowances.
The legislation would ensure that the Coast Guard gets the same treatment as the other branches of the armed services if there is a lapse in appropriations. Because the Coast Guard is funded under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it was left off a previous funding stopgap that covered the Department of Defense (DoD).
Upon introduction of the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, Sen. Cruz said: “Ensuring the hard-working men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard are paid during government shutdowns is a matter I have long supported. Texans depend on Coast Guard personnel to safeguard our ports, patrol our waterways, and stop human and drug smuggling. With over 2,000 Coast Guard personnel stationed in Texas, from Corpus Christi to Galveston, to South Padre Island, and elsewhere, Coast Guard service members are Semper Paratus — always ready — to stand watch and protect our nation. Their critical efforts cannot cease in the event of a funding lapse, and they should be paid—without question and without delay.”
Chair Cantwell said: “This legislation guarantees that Coast Guard members and their families stationed in the State of Washington and across the country will be treated like other members of the armed forces if there is a lapse in federal funding. This isn’t just a matter of fairness, but recognition of the vital role Coasties and their families play in search and rescue, emergency response, oil spill prevention, facilitating maritime commerce, and protecting national security.”
Sen. Sullivan said: “Just like America’s other military service members, our Coast Guard personnel face serious, life-threatening risks and challenges as they defend our country and collaborate closely in joint operations. However, because the Coast Guard is the one branch of the military that does not operate under the DoD, its members have more often been caught up in congressional spending battles, like we saw in the 2019 partial government shutdown. The men and women who tirelessly protect our shores and risk their lives for all of us should never go without a paycheck. The Pay Our Coast Guard Act would ensure America’s Coast Guardsmen continue to get paid in these unique circumstances—just like our Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines—and hold Congress to its sacred obligation to these courageous public servants and their families.”
Sen. Baldwin said: “Coast Guard members and their families make sacrifices every day to serve our country, and it is our duty to make sure they always get their paychecks and can put food on the table, regardless of any political fights in Washington. I will always work to avoid unnecessary government shutdowns, but should political brinksmanship ever take us to one, our bipartisan bill will make sure our brave Coast Guard members and their families are not bearing the brunt of it.”
Companion legislation to the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, the Pay Our Coast Guard Parity Act (H.R. 2693), was introduced by Rep. Hillary Scholten (D-MI) in April of this year.
In the event of a government funding gap in which DoD is funded but DHS is not, this bill would provide, without interruption, pay and allowances to Coast Guard active duty personnel, including reservists who perform active service during the funding gap.
This bill would also provide pay and allowances for Coast Guard civilian personnel and contractors that are providing support to the Coast Guard. Finally, it would provide benefits for Coast Guard active duty personnel and dependents including: death gratuity, reimbursement of authorized funeral travel, dignified transfer of remains, unit memorial services, and temporary continuation of housing allowance for dependents of Coast Guard members who lost their lives on active duty.
The most recent government shutdown started in Dec. 2018, lasting 34 days. During that partial shutdown, DoD had already been funded under supplemental appropriations, but DHS was not. As a result, DoD military personnel were paid during the shutdown, but Coast Guard personnel, who continued to work, did not receive pay. Despite lack of pay and allowances, Coast Guard members continued to serve the nation at home and abroad, in some cases Coast Guard personnel were even working alongside DoD members on shared missions in conflict zones without pay.
While these brave men and women protected our coasts, facilitated maritime trade and transportation, conducted search and rescue, protected fisheries and living marine resources, and patrolled our maritime borders to conduct migrant and drug interdiction; their families were forced to resort to food pantries and struggled to pay for housing.
In January of 2019, Sen. Cruz joined a number of his colleagues on the Senate floor, including Sen. Sullivan, in calling for paying Coast Guard members during the shutdown. Sens. Cantwell, Wicker, and Baldwin incorporated similar legislation as part of the Coast Guard Authorization Act last Congress.