Barber's bill on troop death benefits passes House
Just a day after being introduced by U.S. Ron Barber, a bill to fund death benefits for armed forces members despite the federal shutdown passed the House with a unanimous vote, 425-0.
The Tucson Democrat's bill now heads to the Senate.
"This weekend, our nation lost five brave service members in Afghanistan," Barber told the House on Tuesday as he introduced the measure. “And shortly after they were killed, their families were notified that our government would not pay their survivor benefits due to the shutdown. This is disgraceful and an outrage."
Payment of death benefits, including to the families of U.S. troops killed in action, has been suspended because of the shutdown of the federal government during an impasse over the Affordable Care Act and extension of the debt ceiling.
Barber's bill, known as the Fallen Heroes and Families Assistance Act, would amend the Pay Our Military Act that was unanimously passed by both houses of Congress last week, requiring that members of the armed forces be paid during the shutdown.
"I am gratified that despite our deep divisions on some matters, all members of the House today recognized that this is an issue that defines all of us as Americans," Barber said in a news release.
"It is unconscionable that this reckless government shutdown would delay benefits to the families of men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. This legislation will ensure we honor our commitments to these fallen heroes and their families," said the Arizona congressman.
The bill would require that the military pay death benefits, reimbursement for funeral expenses and travel, survivors' basic housing allowance and other expenses incurred because of the death of a service member.
Barber said Congress needs to find a permanent fix, so that such benefits are not suspended during any shutdowns in the future.