Pentagon orders civilians back to work despite shutdown

Pentagon orders civilians back to work despite shutdown

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon said Saturday it will recall most of its furloughed employees as a US government shutdown went into its fifth day with no signs of an end to the impasse.

President Barack Obama used his weekly radio address to demand that Republican lawmakers "end this farce" and approve a budget to keep the government running.

But Republican leaders charged it was the president's refusal to negotiate that was to blame for the continuing stalemate.

With public discontent building, the House of Representatives voted 407 to 0 to pass a measure to retroactively pay the hundreds of thousands of federal workers forced to stay home during the crisis.

And US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that most of the estimated 400,000 furloughed Pentagon employees will be called back to work next week. "It's very good news," rejoiced Republican Senator John Thune.

"I think that was what most of us intended when we moved that military pay bill, was that it applied not just to people who were directly members of the services but also people who were employed by them to carry out important functions and missions."

Hagel said Pentagon lawyers had concluded the law allows employees "whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members" to be exempted from the shutdown.

"I expect us to be able to significantly reduce - but not eliminate - civilian furloughs under this process," he said.

The moves reflected deepening concern over the impact of the first federal government shutdown in 17 years, but both sides continued to point fingers at each other.

"Take that vote. Stop this farce. End this shutdown now," Obama exhorted the Republican-controlled House in his weekly radio and video address.

Eric Cantor, the number two Republican in the House, said the impasse could be worked out but Obama "seems to be unwilling to sit down and talk with us."

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