ET politicos weigh in; U.S. military families could wait for paychecks

Published on Monday, 30 September 2013 23:37 - Written by FAITH HARPER AND ADAM RUSSELL Staff Writers

Tyler native Jackie Vaughn is worried about being able to pay all her bills in the midst of a looming government shut down.

The 25-year-old military wife, accounting student and mother of a 5-year-old, lives in military housing at the Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Mrs. Vaughn said her husband Brett, an Air Force staff sergeant, received his normal paycheck on Monday but the family didn’t know if it would be the last deposit they received until Congress agreed on a continuing resolution to keep government operations going.

“I’m a full-time student, and I work two or three days a week, and that doesn’t amount to how much he gets paid,” Mrs. Vaughn said. “We need to be really low key on groceries this week, or something, or else we won’t have enough money for the rest of the month. It’s a little scary.”

While the family is worried, Mrs. Vaughn said other families with newborns or special needs children are having a more difficult time.

“We shouldn’t have to worry about that,” she said. “I think military families put in the most pain and suffering in the U.S. and to deny them money to support themselves is not right.”

The threat of a government shutdown should not affect Smith County residents directly.

Susan Guthrie, with the city of Tyler, said the city’s daily operations would not be affected but it may receive federal funding reimbursements late.

County operations also will remain intact.

“County governments, by nature, provide essential and basic services, such as road repair and a criminal justice system,” County Judge Joel Baker said in a statement. “Those services are in no danger of being defunded. Smith County will continue to provide the same core functions and services to our citizens, whatever the outcome in Washington.”

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said Republicans “caved” to Democrats who used similar strategies in the past. Gohmert said the conventional wisdom within the Capitol Building suggests Democrats want GOP members to absorb enough blame for a government shutdown to make the House majority vulnerable in coming elections.

Smith County Democratic Party chairman David Henderson said Americans’ re-election of President Barrack Obama was indicative of the national opinion of the health care law.

“Nobody wants (a shutdown),” he said. “But these wild, right-wing Republicans lost their referendum on Obamacare when (Mitt) Romney wasn’t elected.”

Henderson said a shutdown now would be a black eye for Republican obstructionists. He noted Republican majority leader Newt Gingrich was out as Speaker of the House following the last government shutdown in 1995.

JoAnn Fleming, executive director of Grassroots America — We the People, said people will still receive Social Security payments, planes will leave airports, and members of Congress will still receive their paychecks. She said shutting down national parks, museums and postponing access to travel documents, such as visas, are small prices to pay to protect jobs and the healthcare sector.

“I am interested in small businesses being able to keep their doors open. I am interested in doctors and medical professionals ability to keep the integrity of their profession. Insurance premiums are going up. Patients are losing their preferred doctors,” she said. “I’m just not that concerned about a shutdown.”

Several federal agencies have a home in Tyler including a federal district court, the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI.

Dave Maland, district clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, said the Department of Justice has enough funding to remain fully staffed for two weeks. If Congress cannot reach a decision by Oct. 15, federal criminal crimes would take priority over civil cases, he said. In the meantime, the court is working on a contingency plan.

“We are at the mercy of the Senate, the Congress and the president, so whatever they decide, we will make the best of it,” said Jon Garrison, judicial security inspector for the court.

Davilyn Walston, public information officer for the U.S. Attorneys Office, said operations would be cut down to essential staff starting today, but the full list of where cuts would be made would not be known until the morning.

Ms. Walston said the office would still be able to work and take on new cases, but there would be fewer people in its offices.

Officials with the FBI and the U.S. Marshals also said potential cuts should not hamper their ability to carry out their respective mission statements.

Mrs. Fleming said she is concerned Senate majority leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, may hold funding for the U.S. Armed Forces “hostage” as a bargaining chip. Historically, Congress has approved funding the military despite disputes on other portions of funding bills.

Mrs. Vaughn said this is the second time the family has worried about payments from the government. She said in 2011 while her husband was overseas in Korea, he called to tell her not to pay the bills because he wasn’t sure if his paycheck was coming in. She said the payment was three weeks late.

“With God, all things are possible, so we are going to be praying a lot,” she said. “I’m sure they (politicians) spent plenty of money on their brains, and it’s time to use them. My mom says, ‘If you have a noodle, you need to use it.’”