WASHINGTON – Presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., announced Wednesday that she is co-sponsoring a bill to ensure military service members receive their paychecks, even if the debt ceiling is not raised.
“Don’t allow our military men and women to dangle over a fire,” Bachmann said at a Capitol news conference.
The bill, H.R. 2496, called the PROMISES Act, comes after months of congressional debate about the federal government’s impending debt ceiling crisis. The U.S. Treasury Department predicts that the nation will not have enough money to pay all of its bills by Aug. 2. Without an act to authorize increased borrowing, military salaries, Social Security and Medicare benefits, tax refunds and debt interest payments would all be at risk.
The PROMISES Act would require the government to pay active members of the military before spending money on anything else if the debt ceiling is not raised. The next priority would be “to pay with legal tender the principal and interest on debt held by the public,” the bill says.
“When you look them in the eye and you see that noble look, you know they’re worried about their families back home,” King said.
Since March, 10 bills of a similar nature have been introduced into the House and Senate, with titles such as Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act and Guarantee Paychecks for America's Military Families Act. Some legislators believe these measures are inadequate to address the government’s strained financial state.
“Things like that basically represent gimmickry,” Derek Schlickeisen, spokesman for Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said. “It isn’t a serious solution. Anything that does not involve raising the debt ceiling is wildly irresponsible.”
President Barack Obama has been meeting daily with members of Congress to seek a compromise on budget cuts and a debt ceiling increase.
In his daily press briefing Thursday, presidential Press Secretary Jay Carney said it is important for the country to avoid a default. He also chided those who say they will not vote to raise the debt ceiling.
“I think that when you talk about those members who seem to think that there is little consequence to the prospect of defaulting, despite all the significant evidence to the contrary, that they need to think twice about what goals are they looking to achieve here,” Carney said, adding there is no “Plan B” that allows the government to fund all programs if the debt ceiling is not raised.
Bachmann, King and Gohmert oppose raising the debt ceiling, and at the news conference they questioned the veracity of the Obama administration’s statements that military salaries and Social Security benefits might not be paid if Congress does not authorize increased borrowing.
“Quit believing the president when he uses these scare tactics,” Gohmert said.
Bachmann called on the president to be “truthful” about the debt situation and blamed government spending for the crisis.
“President Obama is holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage so he can continue his spending spree,” she said.
King and Gohmert decried what they asserted to be the use of military paychecks as leverage in the debt ceiling negotiations.
“They were used by both sides as pawns in the political game,” Gohmert said. “Our service members and their families should not have to give it a second thought as to whether their paychecks will come on time.”
“What we want to do is take the politics out of this issue,” she said.
Politics was not wholly absent from the news conference, however. Gohmert cited Bachmann’s presidential candidacy when he suggested that “maybe someone in this room” would come up with a better debt crisis solution as president. Bachmann mentioned her recent campaign travels to Iowa and told a story about a factory worker who endorses her bid for the presidency.
“‘As president of the United States, I want you to give this country back to the people,’” Bachmann quoted the man.
Bachmann would not answer a question about which government employees she believes should not be paid if military members’ salaries are first on the list.
The bill was referred to the House Ways and Means, Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees.
Reach reporter Rebecca Koenig at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-326-9867
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