The commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard said Tuesday it was “unacceptable” that members of the service branch had been forced to work without pay during the ongoing partial government shutdown.
“Thank you for continuing to stay on the watch,” Adm. Karl Schultz said in a Twitter video posted Tuesday, just days before hundreds of thousands of federal workers are expected to miss their second paychecks of the year. “We’re five-plus weeks into the anxiety and stress of this government lapse and your non-pay. You, as members of the armed forces, should not be expected to shoulder this burden.”
The comments are the most forceful statements made by Schultz since the shutdown began more than 32 days ago over an impasse between Congress and President Donald Trump over his demand for $5.7 billion in funding to begin building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Agencies across the federal government, employing about 800,000 federal workers, have been affected by the shutdown.
While most members of the armed services remain funded through the Department of Defense budget, the Coast Guard is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, which is part of the shutdown. About 41,000 active-duty service members and 2,100 civilians have been working without pay during the shutdown, and an additional 6,000 civilians have been furloughed, according to The Washington Post.
Schultz, who said he stood “in awe” with those working without pay, said he found the stalemate between congressional Democrats and the White House “unacceptable.” He noted some members of the Coast Guard have been forced to rely on donations or food pantries to feed their families, echoing widespread stories of other federal workers struggling to pay their bills.
“This week we’ll hit another sobering milestone,” the admiral noted, “and that’s potential nonpayment of our civilians on Friday.”
Schultz and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen have been lobbying lawmakers to pass a budget deal to reopen the government. In a statement this week, Nielsen called on “Congress to do its job and pay our military now.”
Coast Guard members have also been speaking to their representatives in an attempt to share the difficulties caused by the missed paychecks. Jon Ostrowski, president of the Coast Guard Petty Officers Association, told the Military Times on Tuesday that branch retirees were starting to worry about the length of the shutdown.
“They can’t pay their rent,” Ostrowski told the news organization. “Many may have made arrangements with landlords or banks to help them for the first month. Missing another paycheck will hit them hard.”
The Senate is expected to vote on competing bills to at least temporarily end the shutdown on Thursday. One bill would give Trump his wall funding while another, backed by Democrats, would fund the government through early February without a wall, to give lawmakers a renewed chance at negotiations.
Neither are expected to gather the 60 votes required to advance the legislation, and it’s likely federal workers will miss their second paychecks on Friday.