For the first time, the Senate has passed one of the House's partial funding bills. Unsurprisingly, it's the one that would ensure the families of those killed in combat continue to receive death benefits. This is what it takes for the government to reach bipartisan consensus, apparently.
As we noted on Wednesday, this was the ninth time the Republican House passed a measure that would restore funding to some part of the shuttered government. The Senate's approval is the first time that one has reached President Obama's desk.
Even that, though, came with a shrug. On Wednesday, the Defense Department announced that the benefits would be paid by the Fisher House Foundation during the shutdown. As the Associated Press notes, the government "typically pays families about $100,000 within three days of a service member’s death, but officials say the shutdown was preventing those benefits from being paid." Fisher House has been promised that it would be reimbursed by the government once the government reopens. According to The Hill, that promise made the Senate's decision purely political.
“The death benefit issue has been resolved … so this issue is largely mute,” Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday. “This move is now just for show here … [but] I don’t object.”
It's not clear whether or not the president will sign the measure. The president, of course, doesn't need to worry about the political implications of voting against it, and could simply let it sit for a while. During his daily press conference, White House spokesman Jay Carney stated repeatedly that the bill was "not necessary," calling the Republican's series of piecemeal bills "a gimmick."
For those in Congress — not one of whom voted against the bill — the choice to support it was simple. Regardless of political persuasion or opinion of the shutdown, any member of Congress that failed to vote in favor of paying the families of those who die in the line of duty would be providing political opponents in perpetuity with a devastating campaign ad.
As with the vote to ensure pay for members of the military that preceded the shutdown, the barest minimum of what's required of an elected official in the United States is a demonstration unwavering support for the armed services. Everything else is up for debate.