WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Pentagon said on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) it will recall most of its furloughed employees as a United States (US) government shutdown continued 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.
The US government closed all but its essential operations on Tuesday when Republican lawmakers refused to approve money for government operations without first delaying or defunding the new health care law, commonly known as Obamacare.
With public discontent building, the House of Representatives held a rare meeting and voted 407-0 to pass a measure to retroactively pay the hundreds of thousands of federal workers forced to stay home during the crisis.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that most of the estimated 400,000 furloughed Pentagon employees will be called back to work next week.
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.
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.”
“It doesn’t make any sense if the president has an ax to grind with the opposing party, why he would want to put the American people in the middle of that,” he said.
Neither chamber of Congress was scheduled to meet on Sunday.
There were growing fears that the budget battle focused on Obama’s health care law will merge with a related, and potentially more damaging, fight over raising the US debt ceiling.