But even as Congress and the White House rallied around the bill, one outside group said it "demonstrates the stupidity of the shutdown."
Making the shutdown less painful for 800,000 federal employees will encourage Congress and the White House to extend it even longer, driving up the cost, said Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Ellis said "essential" federal workers who stayed on the job "will feel like suckers because they've been working while the others essentially are getting paid vacations."
The White House has opposed other piecemeal efforts by House Republicans to restore money to some functions of government during the partial shutdown. White House officials have said the House should reopen the entire government and not pick some agencies and programs over others.
In the 1995-96 government shutdowns, furloughed workers were retroactively given full pay.
Despite the White House's declared appreciation of the essential role of federal workers, there appeared no sign of a breakthrough in getting them back to work.
Lawmakers keep replaying the same script on Capitol Hill: House Republicans pass piecemeal bills to reopen popular and politically sensitive programs — on Friday, disaster relief and food aid for the poor — while Democrats insist that the House vote on a straightforward Senate-passed measure to reopen all of the government.
"We know that there are enough members in the House of Representatives — Democrats and Republicans — who are prepared to vote to reopen the government,' Obama said in an Associated Press interview Friday. "The only thing that is keeping that from happening is Speaker (John) Boehner has made a decision that he is going to hold out to see if he can get additional concessions from us."