The Washington Post

Civilian recognition bill stalled, at least temporarily

A bill to recognize civilian federal employees killed in the line of duty with military-type flag honors did not reach a planned House vote for a practical reason, but the American Legion meanwhile has raised substantive objections to the proposal.

The Civilian Service Recognition Act would authorize agencies to pay for a flag for workers killed while on the job or because of their status as a federal employee.

The House had scheduled a floor vote on the bill for late Wednesday under a procedure known as suspension of the rules, which typically is used for non-controversial measures. However, the vote was called off after the main sponsor, Rep. Richard Hannah (R-N.Y.), was unable to return from his district to Washington on time to shepherd the bill through the vote.

“It was a practical matter that he couldn’t be here. His flight got canceled,” said Renee Gamela, a spokeswoman for Hannah, who represents a rain-soaked region in the Southern Tier of New York.

However, just before the scheduled vote, the American Legion issued a statement opposing the bill, calling it “a misguided attempt to equate civil service with military service . . . If federal employees die or are killed in service to America, they should be honored by a grateful nation. Just not in the same way as our military or veterans.”

The statement argued that the bill did not adequately define the circumstances under which civilian employees would be eligible for the honor, how it would be presented and who would qualify as next of kin to receive it.

In the wake of the stalled vote, Hannah’s staff and officials from the Legion met on Thursday.

“We’re comfortable that we’re moving in the right direction to amend it in some manner and suitably recognize civilians for their sacrifice” while addressing those issues, said Tim Tetz, American Legion legislative director.

A vote has not been rescheduled.


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