“What about the sick children who need access to clinical trials?” Cantor continued.
The House has passed several bills to fund the National Institutes of Health and other agencies. The Senate has rejected each, insisting on a measure to reopen the whole government.
It wasn’t always clear whether Republicans would back the measure to ensure pay for furloughed employees — which has been the tradition in past shutdowns. Last month, some Republicans expressed skepticism about paying workers while they’re off the job.
Since last week, however, the GOP has embraced a strategy of trying to lessen the harm of the shutdown, while pressing forward with a campaign of using the shutdown to try to force Obama to make concessions.
On Saturday, the president again rejected that approach, saying he will not negotiate on what he regards as the simple task of reopening the government.
“There’s only one way out of this reckless and damaging shutdown: Pass a budget that funds our government, with no partisan strings attached,” the president said in his weekly address.
Republicans insist they want the government to be open but say a negotiation is the only way to do it. “What normally happens when the two parties disagree on policy is a negotiation,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said Saturday. “Each side gives up a little and gets a little, and you wind up with a bipartisan compromise.”
The Pentagon decision to recall most employees was based on a liberal interpretation of the Pay Our Military Act, a law passed last week that ensures that uniformed members of the military will not have their paychecks delayed by the shutdown.
The bill includes general language exempting Defense Department civilians from furlough if they provide direct support to the military. After consulting with Pentagon lawyers and Obama administration officials in recent days, Hagel decided he could justify recalling most of the Pentagon’s furloughed workforce based on that provision.
Those who will most likely receive a green light include people who provide health care to troops and their families; buy, repair or maintain weapons systems; work at commissaries; or acquire other supplies for the military.
Those who might not be covered include auditors, employees who work in public affairs or legislative affairs, or civilian employees of the Army Corps of Engineers, according to a Pentagon memo.
Workers can expect to hear from their managers starting over the weekend about whether they can return to their jobs.
The Pentagon’s announcement will affect a vast global workforce, with 86 percent of the department’s civilian employees working outside the Washington metropolitan area.
Hagel’s decision could bring some relief to thousands of private contractors who work for the Defense Department but had faced the threat of layoffs because of the government shutdown.
On Friday, for example, Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin said it would furlough about 3,000 employees this week and expects that number to grow if the budget standoff doesn’t end soon.
“I expect us to significantly reduce — but not eliminate — civilian furloughs under this process,” Hagel said. “We will continue to try to bring all civilian employees back to work as soon as possible. Ultimately, the surest way to end these damaging and irresponsible furloughs, and to enable us to fulfill our mission as a department, is for Congress to pass a budget and restore funds for the entire federal government.”
Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, praised the Pentagon’s decision.
“I am very pleased to see so many of our national security workforce will be able to return to work. Congress gave the Executive Branch broad authority to keep our armed forces and dedicated defense civilians working throughout the government shutdown. Though I do not believe the law required these hundreds of thousands of workers to be furloughed in the first place, it is welcome news.”
Lisa Rein, Paul Kane, Josh Hicks and Marjorie Censer contributed to this report.