McKeon to Pentagon: Bring civilians back to work

“The text does not limit the provision of pay to civilians who were previously categorized by the administration as ‘excepted’ or ‘essential’ for the purposes of Department of Defense operations in the event of a shutdown,” he said. “Therefore, I strongly encourage you to use the authority Congress has given you to keep national security running, rather than keep civilians at home when they are authorized to work."

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House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was more critical of the Pentagon for the furloughs, as a spokesman accused the White House of “using DOD workers to play political games.” 

“So far, the Defense Department has narrowly interpreted the measure – against congressional intent – and decided to furlough DOD civilian employees who support our troops,” the Boehner spokesman said in a statement.

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While all service members will continue working during a shutdown, about half of the department’s 800,000 civilians are being furloughed.

Hagel told reporters Tuesday that Pentagon lawyers were examining the legislation to see if they were able to end furloughs for more civilians.

“Our lawyers believe that maybe we can expand the exempt status,” he said.

McKeon asked Hagel for an update later on Tuesday about how the administration was interpreting the bill to pay the military.

“I know you would agree with me that this is no time to use national security or our national security workforce as a political pawn,” McKeon said.

— This story was updated at 6:45 p.m.