WASHINGTON, D.C. — 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 pay 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 Sunday how the standoff ends, he was uncertain: “If I knew, I’d tell you.”
The Ohio Republican added President Barack Obama can call him any time to start negotiations to end the shutdown. “He knows what my phone number is,” Boehner said on ABC.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Sunday that Congress should act immediately to reopen the government 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 Obama’s signature health care law in exchange for reopening the government, a demand that Democrats say is absurd.
“It was time for us to take a stand,” Boehner said.
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.