WASHINGTON — The Republican-led House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill on Saturday that would retroactively pay 800,000 furloughed workers once the now 5-day-old government shutdown ends.

“There are thousands of public employees in Maine who have been furloughed because of the government shutdown. They have mortgage and car payments to make, groceries to buy and bills that need to be paid, but through no fault of their own they have been put out of work,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, a co-sponsor of the bill. “When the government shutdown is over they deserve their back pay. They shouldn’t have to pay the price for the inability of Congress to keep the government open.”

Pingree said this bill is an important protection for public workers, but it’s even more important for Congress to pass a spending bill to reopen the government.

“We could reopen the government this afternoon if Republican leaders would just allow us to vote on a spending bill. The Senate has already passed it, the president will sign it and the votes are there in the House, but they just won’t let us take that vote,” Pingree said.

Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, said, “There are thousands of federal workers in Maine, and many of them have already been asked to sacrifice this year through furloughs.” Now they “face additional stress and the loss of pay due to this shutdown. Once these irresponsible political games are over, it’s only right that they be paid. They should not be punished for Congress’ inability to pass a budget.”

The measure now goes to the Democratic-led Senate for concurrence. The White House has said that President Barack Obama will sign it into law. There is no end in sight to the shutdown, and there are still no bipartisan negotiations.

Pentagon to act

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will announce on Saturday his decision to recall most of the some 400,000 civilian Defense Department employees sent home during the government shutdown, a defense official said.

The official said that Hagel has been reviewing his authority to recall furloughed civilians, who may benefit from additional protections under a law meant to shield America’s military from the shutdown.