WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today took to the Senate floor requesting unanimous consent to pass the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, bicameral, bipartisan legislation he introduced with Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). The Pay Our Coast Guard Act would ensure Coast Guardsmen are paid just like other military personnel in the event of a government shutdown.
In seeking passage of the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, Sen. Cruz was joined by Senator Sullivan, who is the ranking member of the Committee’s subcommittee on Oceans, Fisheries, Climate Change, and Manufacturing. Passage of the bill was blocked by Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
Sen. Cruz’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are included below:
“Since 1790, the Coast Guard, our Nation's oldest continuous seagoing service, has been the world’s premier force in maritime safety, security, and stewardship. Guided by its core values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty, the Coast Guard is a symbol of resolve to our adversaries, and of hope to those in peril at sea. Our Nation relies upon the more than 50,000 members of the Coast Guard each day to keep our country safe, project national power, and champion the rule of law and governance on our waters and beyond.
“In Texas, Coast Guard members are on patrol 365 days a year. From Station South Padre Island to Sector Houston-Galveston and beyond, Coast Guard members keep our citizens and our country safe. Just this week a Coast Guard Air Station Houston helicopter crew completed a daring rescue, saving the life of a mariner 10 miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas. When our Nation calls, the Coast Guard is always ready to answer.
“As the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has responsibility for policies affecting Coast Guard service members and their families, I believe that in the event of a shutdown, the Coast Guard must be paid—without question and without delay.
“That’s why last week I introduced the bipartisan Pay Our Coast Guard Act, which would treat Coast Guardsmen the same as all other service members for purposes of pay and benefits if there’s a lapse in appropriations.
“If a continuing resolution is not passed, the prudent thing to do—the right thing to do—is to agree now that we will pay the Coast Guard. That is what this Bill does. If there is a shutdown, military personnel from all branches of the armed forces will keep working. In past shutdowns, Congress acted swiftly to pay our troops. But since the Coast Guard is housed in the Department of Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense, Coast Guardsmen weren’t compensated.
“Our bipartisan legislation, which I introduced with Senators Cantwell, Sullivan, and Baldwin, avoids that scenario by saying if there is a shutdown, all of our armed forces—including the Coast Guard—must be paid. This bipartisan bill makes clear here that we will not take the Coast Guard hostage to a shutdown fight.
“While the American people can always count on the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard has not always been able to count on this Chamber to do the right thing. During the last government shutdown, which ended in 2019, members of a single branch of the armed forces—the Coast Guard—worked without paychecks for 34 days, oftentimes alongside service members who were still being paid. The Defense Department was funded, but the Homeland Security Department was not, so I joined with several Senate colleagues to advance a bill that would have treated members of the Coast Guard the same as those in the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps.
“That bill was brought up before the entire U.S. Senate by unanimous consent but was blocked the Democratic Leader. The only thing necessary to ensure the timely payment of every Coast Guard service member was for my colleagues across the aisle to withdraw their objection. Regrettably, that did not happen. While Coast Guardsmen put their lives in danger protecting our maritime borders, some of their families were resorting to food pantries and short-term loans to pay for housing. But we have the opportunity today to get it right.
“Last month we marked the 233rd birthday of the Coast Guard. To commemorate the occasion, this chamber unanimously passed a resolution I introduced honoring the Coast Guard’s excellence in maritime border security. The resolution also expressed the Senate’s gratitude for the Coast Guard’s work in protecting our people and our borders from illegal immigration, and keeping deadly drugs like cocaine and fentanyl from entering the United States.
“Again, that Resolution passed the Senate unanimously in July. I hope to see similar unanimous support for the Coast Guard from my colleagues today.
“Let’s not wait until there is a shutdown to make sure Coast Guardsmen are treated equitably. Let’s do the right thing today and make it clear that if we pay our Department of Defense troops, we will also pay our troops in the Coast Guard.”
Watch the full exchange, including Sens. Cruz and Sullivan's remarks, HERE.
Companion legislation to the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, the Pay Our Coast Guard Parity Act (H.R. 2693), was introduced by Rep. Hillary Scholten (D-MI) in April of this year.
The Pay Our Coast Guard Act would ensure that the Coast Guard gets the same treatment as the other branches of the armed services if there is a lapse in appropriations. Because the Coast Guard is funded under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it was left off a previous funding stopgap that covered the Department of Defense (DoD).
In the event of a government funding gap in which DOD is funded but DHS is not, this bill would provide, without interruption, pay and allowances to Coast Guard active duty personnel, including reservists who perform active service during the funding gap.
This bill would also provide pay and allowances for Coast Guard civilian personnel and contractors that are providing support to the Coast Guard. Finally, it would provide benefits for Coast Guard active duty personnel and dependents including: death gratuity, reimbursement of authorized funeral travel, dignified transfer of remains, unit memorial services, and temporary continuation of housing allowance for dependents of Coast Guard members who lost their lives on active duty.
The most recent government shutdown started in Dec. 2018, lasting 34 days. During that partial shutdown, DoD had already been funded under supplemental appropriations, but DHS was not. As a result, DoD military personnel were paid during the shutdown, but Coast Guard personnel, who continued to work, did not receive pay. Despite lack of pay and allowances, Coast Guard members continued to serve the nation at home and abroad, in some cases Coast Guard personnel were even working alongside DoD members on shared missions in conflict zones without pay.