Pentagon Workers May Head Back To Work Monday
Washington (AP)-- A large chunk of the furloughed federal work force is headed back to the Pentagon, and those who remain at home or are working without paychecks are a step closer to getting back once the partial government shutdown ends.
Still, a resolution to the impasse itself is nowhere in sight.
House Speaker John Boehner doesn't see one. Asked this weekend if Congress was any closer to ending the gridlock, the Ohio Republican answered bluntly, "No."
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Sunday that Congress should act immediately to end the government shutdown because the votes are there to pass a temporary budget measure.
"There are no winners here," Lew said on NBC. "Every day the government is shut down does real harm to the American people."
Lew said that members of Congress "need to open the government up. They can do it today."
The federal government was partially shut down Tuesday, the first day of the new budget year, after Republicans and Democrats couldn't agree on a plan to continue funding federal agencies.
House Republicans are demanding significant changes to President Barack Obama's signature health care law in exchange for reopening the government, a demand that Democrats say is absurd.
Since Tuesday, the GOP-led House has passed several bills to reopen selected parts of the government. Democratic leaders are rejecting the piecemeal approach, saying the entire government should be reopened and the 800,000 federal workers on furlough put back to work.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ended the argument for most Pentagon civilian employees, ordering nearly all 350,000 back on the job.
Hagel said he based his decision on a Pentagon interpretation of a law called the Pay Our Military Act, which was passed shortly before the partial government shutdown began. Republican lawmakers had complained that the Obama administration was slow to bring back those workers even though the law allowed it.
Hagel said civilian workers should stand by for further word about when they will return to work this weekend. He hoped that a "substantial number" could return on Monday.
In a rare Saturday session, the House voted 407-0 to pass a bill to provide furloughed workers back pay. The Obama administration supports the retroactive pay bill and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he expects the Democratic-led Senate to pass it.
However, the bigger standoff continues and is playing out as an even bigger financial crisis looms. The Treasury Department says the federal government will reach the limit of its authority to borrow money on October 17. If Congress doesn't raise the debt limit, the U.S. will default on its obligations for the first time, triggering what many economists say would be an economic catastrophe.