Vice President Mike Pence told US service members on Sunday that immigration talks between lawmakers and the White House couldn’t proceed until the government reopens.
In politically tinged remarks – unusual for an elected official to deliver at a military installation – Pence blamed Democrats for impeding progress on funding the government.
“We’re going to demand they reopen the government,” Pence told American servicemen at a US airbase here on the Syrian border. “In fact, we’re not going to reopen negotiations on illegal immigration until they reopen the government and give you, our soldiers, and your families the benefits and wages you’ve earned.”
Pence was addressing the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, which delivers much of the ammunition being used in Operation Inherent Resolve, the US military campaign against ISIS. CNN has withheld the name and location of the military facility for security and diplomatic purposes.
Speaking before an American flag and camouflaged tarpaulins, Pence told the crowd that President Donald Trump stood behind them and would work to ensure their pay continues uninterrupted as the government enters the second day of a shutdown.
“Despite bipartisan support for a budget resolution, a minority in the Senate has decided to play politics with military pay, but you deserve better,” he said. “You and your families shouldn’t have to worry for one minute about whether you’re going to get paid as you serve in the uniform of the United States.”
The remarks were notable because US officials generally avoid political talk when visiting military installations or speaking to troops.
Asked by a reporter about the propriety of his words, Pence took a long pause before answering.
“Standing behind me and standing before me today at this American air base are Americans who are literally paying the price for the government shutdown in Washington, DC,” he said. “The reality is that the Democrat minority in the Senate decided to put politics ahead of their military pay. And I wanted these soldiers to know that we’re with them. We’re not going to stand for it.”
Pence said he’d spoken with Trump about the shutdown on Saturday evening and expected to discuss the matter further with the President later on Sunday.
Pence, who flew to the military facility with his wife, second lady Karen Pence, aboard a C-17 military jumbo jet, praised the troops’ service in helping combat Islamic State fighters in nearby Syria.
“Because of your courage and valor and professionalism, we are driving the evil of ISIS from the face of the earth,” Pence said, later adding: “We will be finished with ISIS very soon.”