Mike Needham

Putting political gain ahead of our troops is pretty crass, but it seems some are prepared to do it.

A government shutdown is a misnomer. During a “shutdown,” essential activities continue, Social Security checks get paid, and life for most Americans will be relatively normal. If Congress and the President don’t pass a military appropriations bill, however, our troops might not get paid.

The fight going on in Washington these days is rather absurd. We have a $1.65 trillion deficit and we are fighting over whether $61 billion should be cut from it. That’s about 3.7 percent of the deficit. The answer to anybody who lives on Planet Earth is “of course.” At the very least, can’t we remove military paychecks from the absurdity of Washington politics?

History repeats itself with amazing frequency, and the talking heads cannot resist drawing comparisons between 2011 and 1995. Of course, the parallels are much deeper than the politics. In the fall of 1995, President Clinton was preparing to send ground troops into Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of NATO peacekeeping operations. And despite a multi-year no fly zone and pending ground operation, President Clinton was fighting to reduce spending on defense.

The defense spending battle was just one of many spending battles that President Clinton had with the Republican Congress. However, he finally relented, weeks before boots hit foreign soil, and allowed a defense spending bill to become law, though without his signature. As a result, America’s brave men and women were paid during the ensuing government shutdowns.

Today, despite ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and our continued involvement in the NATO-led effort in Libya, our troops have no such certainty. Last year, the Democrat-dominated Congress failed to pass a budget or any regular appropriations measures. Instead, they opted for a stopgap funding measure designed to kick the can down the road and force a newly elected Republican House of Representatives to deal with last year’s business. As we’ve said before, this was nothing more than a cynical political maneuver intended to stymie newly elected conservatives.

Mike Needham

Mike Needham is the Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Action for America, a grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to advancing legislation that promotes freedom, opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.