Hagel’s Coup

You’ve probably heard by now that the government shutdown lost a significant part of its sting via a decision by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to order several hundred thousand civilian employees back to work via a “revised” interpretation of the law whipped through Congress just ensuring pay for active military members. Hagel has determined that these employees contribute to the “morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members,” which qualifies them as exempt from the shutdown.

Republicans may be quietly grumbling about this coup, but they’re not about to leave themselves vulnerable to a charge of nickel-and-diming the Pentagon, and they’re also restrained by their “partial-funding” gambit last week, which sought to make it clear that they were happy with reopening the federal government semi-entirely as long as no Obamacare implementation resources were involved.

For the affected employees, of course, this will make Hagel a hero. It’s hard to say if it will affect the dynamics of the shutdown dispute, insofar as it is already “merging” with the debt limit conflict, which could eventually idle a lot more than a third of a million workers.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.