The Coast Guard is about to go without pay because of the government shutdown, but its members are still out doing missions

US Coast Guard cutter EagleUS Coast Guard Cutter Eagle sailed into some foggy weather in Casco Bay during its arrival into Portland, Maine, August 4, 2017. The arrival coincided with Coast Guard's 227th birthday.US Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Steve Strohmaier

  • The Coast Guard was able to secure enough money for payroll on December 31, despite the government shutdown.
  • But officials say they won't be able to repeat that maneuver for the next payday, January 15, potentially making them the only uniformed military service to go without pay during the shutdown.
  • There's a bill in the Senate to pay the Coast Guard, but their salaries are still at the mercy of political wrangling.

A surprise maneuver at the end of December ensured Coast Guardsmen got their final paychecks of 2018, despite the government shutdown that began on December 22.

But the shutdown has dragged on, and the income for some 50,000 personnel, including 42,000 deemed essential personnel and required to work during the shutdown, remains in doubt as the first payday of 2019 approaches.

Read more: The Coast Guard turned down a request for an Arctic exercise out of concern the US's only heavy icebreaker would break down and Russia would have to rescue it

Salaries for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are covered by the Defense Department, which got its full funding the for the fiscal year in the fall. But while the Coast Guard is a military branch, it is part of the Department of Homeland Security, funding for which had not been approved by the time the shutdown began.

Coast Guard operations have continued, however.

US Coast Guard Connecticut National Guard buoySgt. 1st Class Chris Richards of the Connecticut National Guard along with US Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Benjamin Jewell and Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Hayden of the Coast Guard Cutter Oak prepare the sling that will be used to hoist a 12,000-pound beached buoy, near Chatham, Massachusetts, May 9, 2017. The buoy broke free of its mooring off the coast of Maine during a winter storm and eventually washed ashore near Chatham.US Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi

On December 23, Coast Guard crews on training exercises in Hawaii were diverted twice, first to medevac a snorkeler who was having a medical emergency and then to rescue passengers from a capsized vessel. This month, Coast Guard crews in the Pacific have been involved in searches for crew members from two different vessels.

Officials said on December 28 that the Homeland Security Department had found a way to supply about $75 million needed to cover pay for the December 31 pay period, but they said they would be unable to repeat it for the January 15 payday.

Read more: We got aboard a Coast Guard chopper to see how they bust smugglers and save boaters in the crowded waters around Miami

There is some money within the Homeland Security Department that has moved around to keep things going, but some activities, like issuing licenses, has been curtailed. Funding for other services, like child-care subsidies, is also running out, further complicating life for service members and their families.

During the first week of January, the Pay Our Coast Guard Act was introduced to the Senate by Republican Sen. John Thune, cosponsored by Republican Sens. Roger Wicker, Susan Collins, Cindy Hyde Smith, and Democratic Sens. Marla Cantwell, Richard Blumenthal, Doug Jones, and Brian Schatz.

US Coast Guard Jane Coastie Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space museum New York CityA family poses with Jane Coastie at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City, May 29, 2017.US Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes

The bill would pay active, retired, and civilian Coast Guard personnel despite the shutdown. It would also fund benefits for retired members, death gratuities, and other payouts.

Thune's measure was first introduced in 2015 but died after being referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. After a grassroots effort generated 141,015 letters to congressmembers asking for its reintroduced, the bill was resubmitted on January 3, the first day of the 116th Congress.

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"All we know so far, is that if this isn't resolved by the 10th they will not get paid on the 15th," Coast Guard spouse Stephanie Lisle told ConnectingVets.com. "Hopefully the bill gets passed."

trump coast guardAP

The bill garnered support from more than a dozen veterans groups, but it would also have to pass the House of Representatives, which is now controlled by Democrats, and be signed by President Donald Trump.

Last week, Trump said he was prepared to keep the government shut down for "months or even years" after he and Democratic leaders again failed to resolve his demand for billions in funding for a border wall.

"We won't be opening until it's solved," Trump said on January 4. "I don't call it a shutdown. I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and the safety of our country."

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