Coast Guard personnel, unpaid, soldier on amid shutdown

In the wake of the partial government shutdown, a range of institutions from banks to restaurants have stepped up to help the roughly 800,000 federal employees affected. They've offered everything from free meals to deferred loan payments. A pop-up food pantry set up at the Coast Guard Academy in New London has helped about 1,000 people since opening Monday morning.

The Coast Guard's 42,000 active-duty personnel missed their first paychecks Tuesday, marking the first time in U.S. history that service members have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations, the head of the service, Adm. Karl Schultz said this week.

"We're definitely in a situation where they're being treated differently," U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said by phone Thursday evening after returning to Connecticut.

Courtney has voted for all nine bills that have come up in the House to end the shutdown. The U.S. House of Representatives made its ninth attempt on Thursday.

The House, on a voice vote, passed a continuing resolution that would've reopened the government through Feb. 28. But House Republicans apparently did not realize that their Democratic colleagues, who now have a majority in the chamber, had asked for a voice vote as opposed to a recorded vote, where lawmakers say "yea" or "nay" to a bill.

Republicans called for another vote, but at that point most of the Democrats had left the chamber to catch flights back to their districts for the weekend. The confusion led House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., to schedule a revote for next week when the House is back in session.

During a 2013 shutdown, Congress passed a bill to pay service members from all military branches, including the Coast Guard, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security. The other branches are under the Department of Defense.

There have been attempts to pay active-duty Coast Guard personnel this time around, but none of the proposals have made it out of either chamber of Congress. Courtney said Schultz, the Coast Guard admiral, is working with leaders of both parties in the Senate to come up with a bill to pay Coast Guard personnel that will pass both chambers.

Courtney said Schultz expressed concern to him about the treatment of Coast Guard personnel, who are worried about not getting paid, the stress on their families and what effect that could have on their ability to focus on their jobs. Courtney said he's heard similar concerns recently from Navy leadership.

In many cases, Coast Guard personnel are working alongside members of the other military services who are getting paid. The budget for the Department of Defense was approved last fall.

The Coast Guard and Navy are working together in the Fifth Fleet, which encompasses the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and parts of the Indian Ocean. Courtney said Schultz told him that 350 active-duty Coast Guardsmen and six Coast Guard cutters are in Bahrain carrying out operations with Navy sailors such as freedom of navigation patrols in the Strait of Hormuz — a hazardous and heavily trafficked area.

Another 1,200 Coast Guardsmen in the eastern Caribbean are working with the Navy to interdict drugs and carry out other operations.

Teresa Hembrough of Essex, whose daughter and son-in-law both serve in the Coast Guard, told The Day Wednesday, while visiting the pantry at the academy, that her son-in-law is preparing to go to El Paso, Texas, to help out at the U.S.-Mexico border.

As reported by The Washington Post, the Coast Guard intercepted nearly five times the number of migrants off the coast of southern California in 2018 as it did in 2017.

New London is home to four Coast Guard installations: the academy, Station New London, the Research and Development Center, and the International Ice Patrol. Active- duty Coast Guard personnel at those locations and throughout Connecticut continue to carry out their duties without pay.

j.bergman@theday.com

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