Congress to Department of Defense: “Lift unnecessary furloughs”
OKLAHOMA CITY — Monday, Congress passed the “Pay Our Military Act” protecting Department of Defense employees from a government shutdown, but soon after thousands of Tinker employees showed up for work and were sent home.
Oklahoma Congressman Lankford along with House colleagues wrote a letter to the Obama Administration claiming to take a stand for them, but some Tinker employees aren’t so sure.
Tinker employee Shawn Petty read the letter Thursday with his guard up.
Addressed to the Secretary of Defense, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security and the Office of Management and Budget’s director, the House members call for the “Pay Our Military Act” to be properly enforced saying “Follow the law and protect DOD civilians”, which to them would mean reinstating employees like Petty.
Congressman Lankford says, “The President signed this bill. It’s law, so I don’t understand why the President is not engaging. I don’t understand why the Secretary of Defense is not engaging and why someone is not asking the lawyer what is there to interpret.”
American Federation of Government Employees James Schmidt says, “I think it’s a little bit of political theater.”
Schmidt works to represent Tinker employees just like Petty. He says while the letter is a nice gesture, if Congressman Lankford wants them to get paid they need to focus on agreeing on a budget.
“We appreciate them taking a stand for DOD workers,” says Schmidt. “But also a little resentful for them putting us in this situation in the first place.”
Shawn Petty says, “They’re not taking a stand for DOD workers or anybody if you ask me.”
While thousands of Tinker employees have been sent home, Petty is required to keep working without pay.
He and Schmidt are both worried about how long this is going to last and to them reading this letter is not encouraging.
“People live from paycheck to paycheck,” says Petty. “It’s going to be devastating.”
“There’s a wide range, from denial to panic,” says Schmidt. “Your bills are still due.”
Congressman Lankford says he and his House colleagues have been told the lawyers in the Pentagon are looking at the law trying to interpret it, but he doesn’t believe there is anything to interpret and says the law is clear.
To see the entire letter send by Congressman Lankford, you can see that here.
Lankford Letter to Department of Defense
Senator Inhofe issued the following release late this afternoon:
“Today the House passed legislation that would ensure our heroic veterans receive their rightful benefits earned while serving our country. The President has already issued a veto threat of this bill, and I call on my fellow Senate Democrats to not fall in line with this demand to solidify its failure. It is unfortunate that the President is willing to deny rightful benefits to veterans because of his unwillingness to compromise on his flawed health care law.
“This House bill is simple. It restores the mandatory payments due to our 22 million veterans in the United States, including the 342,816 who reside in my home state of Oklahoma. The bill keeps our nation’s promise to the men and women who have worn the uniform. This is a promise President Lincoln made in his second inaugural address in 1865: ‘To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.’ Today, Congress must recognize this promise.
“It is a promise we made to those who served in World War II. And they were in the news Tuesday when about 90 of them stormed the barricades at the World War II Memorial in Washington, which the White House had closed. It’s a promise we made to those who served in Korea, in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and countless other locations around the world to protect our national security and preserve our freedoms. Services to our veterans are not privileges given, but benefits earned – just like our active military – and therefore should not be used as political bargaining chips. I promise my fellow veterans in Oklahoma as your Senator that I will do everything in my power to guarantee the continued flow of your earned benefits during this unfortunate shutdown.”