The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill guaranteeing that all federal workers laid off during the government shutdown — up to 800,000 people — will eventually be paid the wages they would have earned if there had been no mass furloughs.
The White House has already said that U.S. President Barack Obama would sign legislation to pay furloughed employees for the days they were not allowed to work. The bill first goes to the Senate, which is also expected to approve it.
The partial government shutdown — triggered by lawmakers' failure to agree on a spending bill — is now in its fifth day. Thousands of furloughed workers have already applied for unemployment benefits, with no end to the budget stalemate in sight.
Up to 800,000 government workers were sent home from their jobs on Tuesday. Some have since been called back to work at agencies that were unable to continue operating with reduced staff, and the Pentagon announced Saturday that it will call back to work several hundred thousand civilian employees.
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel said in a statement that Defense Department lawyers had concluded that workers "whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of [military] service members" could be exempted from the government shutdown. Of the estimated 400,000 defense workers furloughed, Hagel said most — but not all — would return to work during the coming week.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.