Sullivan Pushes Senate to Pass Pay our Coast Guard Act

WASHINGTON, DC— Yesterday evening, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) urged his Senate colleagues to take up and pass legislation that he and a bipartisan group of senators have introduced which would ensure that the more than 41,000 active members and retirees of the U.S. Coast Guard be paid throughout the partial government shutdown. Senator Sullivan is currently the chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Security, which has jurisdiction over the U.S. Coast Guard. 

To watch Senator Sullivan’s floor speech in support of the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, CLICK HERE. 


  • Yesterday, members of the Coast Guard didn’t receive their regularly scheduled paychecks. According to Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl L. Schultz “this marks the first time in our Nation’s history that service members in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations.” 
  • During previous government shutdowns, Congress kept the military paid through the Pay Our Military Act. However, in this fiscal year, the Coast Guard is the only military branch without an appropriation. 

Below is a full transcription of Senator Sullivan’s remarks:


Madam President, I want to spend a few minutes talking about the partial government shutdown, which is happening right now, and, more importantly, related to it, the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard who are working today, like every other member of the military, risking their lives here, in my State of Alaska, and overseas in the Middle East, and are not getting paid to do so. 

They are the only branch of the U.S. military not getting paid to risk their lives for their country. They missed their first paycheck today, but here is the good news. We are offering a solution--a solution that is working through the Federal Government that has a lot of potential. 

Before I get to that, I want to talk a little bit about the partial government shutdown itself and make clear that I believe the Trump administration's effort to secure the border should be part of the solution. Every nation has the right and has the responsibility to protect its citizens and to protect its sovereignty. In my view, this is something that should not be controversial. Every nation has the right and responsibility to do this, and that is what the citizens of each country expect. It should not be controversial. 

In fact, over the past 25 years, every single President of the United States--Democrat and Republican--has attempted to secure the southern border and has come before the Congress and said: I am going to secure the southern border. They have campaigned on securing the southern border. They have all said this. Even the Members of Congress--Democrats and Republicans--year after year have come to the floor of both Houses and said: We need to do it. 

In a big speech in 2014, President Obama called the situation on the southern border a crisis. That was 4 years ago. He called it a crisis--the previous President, President Obama. I agreed with his assessment then, and I agree with President Trump's assessment now, which is the same assessment. 

That is why the President is asking for $5.7 billion to secure our border. It is not an unreasonable request, particularly, when Members of this body, just last spring, when we were debating immigration reform, voted for dollar amounts that were much greater than that. Again, Democrats and Republicans, last spring, debating on the floor of this body immigration reform and border security, voted way north of $5.7 billion. 

This is just one of the many solutions we need to grapple with in order to have a functional immigration system that secures our border, enforces the law, helps to grow our economy, and, importantly, keeps families together. Securing the border is an important goal. 

I am hoping that as we all work on this, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer, the President, and my Republican colleagues could get to a compromise on this issue soon. We all need to come together. 

The good news, as I mentioned, is that we might be on the verge of coming together--those parties that I just mentioned--on one of the issues that relate to securing our border, that relate to this broader challenge on the partial government shutdown involving the U.S. Coast Guard . I am hopeful that this could be a template for getting out of the broader partial government shutdown. 

As you know, the partial government shutdown is negatively impacting Federal workers, but none--none--more so than the brave men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard. As I mentioned, they are currently the only members of the U.S. military who are not getting paid during this partial government shutdown. The Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marines are all out there risking their lives for our Nation. We greatly appreciate that. And guess what. They are getting paid to do it, as they should be, but the Coast Guard members are also out there risking their lives, especially in my State, the great State of Alaska. They are out on the Bering Seas, some of the roughest and most dangerous oceans in the world, keeping our fishermen safe and doing rescues. They are deployed overseas. They are deployed in the Middle East. They have been in Florida and Texas helping with natural disasters, hurricanes--all heroic service. 

There have been many shutdowns before in the Federal Government, unfortunately, dating back decades, but this might be the first time ever that you have every branch of the military being paid during the shutdown, with the exception of one. 

Let me read a letter from the commandant of the Coast Guard, ADM Karl Schultz, to the men and women of the Coast Guard: 

To the Men and Women of the United States Coast Guard,

Today you will not be receiving your regularly scheduled mid-month paycheck. To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our Nation's history that service members in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations.

That is the first paragraph in the Commandant's letter to all the members of the U.S. Coast Guard. It is the first time in the U.S. history we are doing this to members of the military. 

(Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the letter be printed in the Record.)

Nobody thinks this is a good idea. Nobody thinks this is a good idea. So last week, a number of us in this body, Democrats and Republicans, put forward a bill that simply says we should pay the men and women of the Coast Guard, even if we are in a partial government shutdown, just like paying the men and women of the other branches of the military. They are risking their lives daily. They can't just quit their job. By the way, if they want to just go quit, they are going to be court-martialed. That is different than other Federal service. So that is what we said we were going to do.

When the President came to the Senate last week, I had the opportunity to raise this issue with the President and his team and highlighted the fact that this is very different, and we need to work together. We have a bill. If we get the President's support and signature on it, that would be a good way to move it forward, and I have been in communication with his administration ever since the lunch--working with us.

I am hopeful we are on the verge of a breakthrough because the White House has said the President recognizes this is a rather unique situation--very unique--so he has now said he is going to support this bill. We have Democrats, Republicans, the White House, and the President of the United States all saying, all right, we are not there yet, but this is a good start, and this is an important issue.

What is going on right now in this body is we are trying to UC this. We are trying to get unanimous consent from Democrats and Republicans on this bill. Again, leadership on the Democratic side and on the Republican side have all supported this bill: pay the Coast Guard like the other military service members. The White House is now supportive. Hopefully, tonight we are going to get this cleared, and we are going to get it over to the House; Speaker Pelosi and her team will recognize how dire and important this is--just like Democrats, Republicans, the President, and Secretary Nielsen Secretary of Homeland Security all recognize this--and we get to a solution. It is not going to end everything, but it will be a solution. 

I am asking my colleagues tonight, as this bill is being moved through the hotline for unanimous consent--and I thank all the Republicans who have already said they will support it. We get my colleagues on the Democratic side--again, there are a number of Democratic cosponsors on this bill. The President said he would sign it. We get it over to the House, and we start to get solutions as opposed to just roadblocks. 

There are just two broader issues I want to raise. As I am indicating, this kind of work can be a template to getting to a broader solution with regard to the partial government shutdown--Democrats and Republicans in this body working together, the White House working with us, the Trump administration working with us, and, hopefully, the House will see the wisdom of this when the bill comes over to them, and we will get a bill signed that takes care of almost 50,000 Active-Duty patriots--men and women--risking their lives, right now as we speak, with no pay. I am hopeful that is a template. 

Another broader issue that this matter actually raises--that we need to focus on a lot more in the Senate--is a problem I have seen in the last 4 years during my time here; that sometimes the Coast Guard gets short shrift relative to other members of the military. It is wrong, and we need to work on it together. 

Why has that happened? Certainly not because they are not as heroic and dedicated and patriotic as the rest of the military. I don't think it is intentional. It is more bureaucratic. The Coast Guard falls under the Commerce Committee. The Coast Guard falls under the Homeland Security Secretary. The Marines, the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force are under the Armed Services Committee and under the Pentagon. Sometimes things just happen, whether it is retirement pay, whether it is the example of paying the military, where the Coast Guard gets treated in an unequal manner. They shouldn't. They shouldn't. We need to treat all members of the military, all five branches, the same: pay, retirement, shutdowns. Again, I don't think it is intentional, but it does happen. 

I am the chairman of the subcommittee in the Commerce Committee in charge of the Coast Guard. I sit on the Armed Services Committee. I know a lot of my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, have recognized this is a problem. The chairman of the Commerce Committee, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee have. I think we are all focused--again, bipartisan--to address some of these challenges where the Coast Guard is not treated equally among the other services, and that is just wrong. We need to start working on that, and I am going to continue to focus on that issue. 

The best way we can start working on that is tonight: Fix this pay problem, which every single American knows is inequitable, knows is not fair to the men and women of the Coast Guard, but we are on the verge of a solution. Let's UC this bill tonight--we have the White House's support--and get it over to the House. At least we will take care of one issue where there is an inequality between the men and women in the other branches of the services and the Coast Guard, and then we will work to fix all the others. I am hopeful we are going to get there tonight and hopefully will solve this problem in the next 24 to 48 hours.