Budget Debt Worries Plague Troops

A half a world away from the Capitol Hill deadlock, the economy and debt crisis are weighing heavily on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

And the top question on their minds Saturday even as bombings rocked the city around them, was one the top U.S. military officer couldn't answer.

Will we get paid?

"I actually don't know how the answer to that question," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a group of troops, while at the same time telling them they will continue to go to work each day.

But he offered a bit more optimism than defense officials have acknowledged when those questions have come up in recent weeks.

"I have confidence that at some point in time, whatever compensation you are owed, you will be given," said Mullen, who is making his 15th trip to Afghanistan, just two months before he retires. But, he noted, "There are plenty of you living paycheck to paycheck so if paychecks were stopped it would have a devastating impact very quickly."

Questions on military spending and how the ongoing budget struggles will impact them dominated the morning meeting at the Kandahar base, and it was the first one Marines asked when he moved on to Camp Leatherneck later..

Troops pressed Mullen on how much the Pentagon is spending on contractors, when many tasks could be done by military members. They questioned whether the budget pressures will focus on pay or equipment and other acquisition. They bemoaned what it could cost to implement the new policy repealing the ban on openly gay men and women serving in the military. And they wondered if their retirement pay was safe.

 

Tea Party Role in Debt Bill Raises GOP Eyebrows

House Republicans rode the tea party tiger to power last fall. Now it's turning on them, forcing party leaders to endure embarrassing delays and unwanted revisions to crucial debt-ceiling legislation.

This tiger did not change it stripes. When tea partyers emerged as a political phenomenon in 2009, they vowed to stand on principle and change the way Washington works. They've kept that promise despite some doubters' predictions they would succumb to the get-along, go-along crowd once they reached Capitol Hill.

That fidelity is now threatening GOP unity and causing headaches for party leaders as they try to negotiate with Democrats in a divided government. With the 2012 campaigns cranking up, some Republicans are re-evaluating the fiery movement that fueled their sweeping victories in 2010.

House Speaker John Boehner's misreading of tea partyers' doggedness this week forced his chagrined team to postpone votes twice on his debt-ceiling bill. Finally, on Friday, Boehner had to amend the bill in ways Democrats openly derided. The events proved "that while the tea party Republicans are a noisy and effective protest movement, they are unfit for governing," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

Said Rep. Steven LaTourette, an Ohio Republican: "We've lost some leverage."

Boehner's original bill to raise the debt ceiling by Tuesday's deadline was already doomed in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where talks of a possible final-hour bipartisan deal were under way. But the House's tea party holdouts forced Boehner to push his bill even further to the right, prompting taunts that it wasn't serious, let alone viable.

Transparency Resources

2011-2012 Illinois Policy Institute Legislators Guide to the Issues

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