WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama brought congressional leaders to the White House on Wednesday for the first time since a partial government shutdown began, but there was no sign of progress toward ending an impasse that has idled 800,000 federal workers and curbed services around the country.
The standoff continued after a White House summit with chief executives as financial leaders and Wall street urged a resolution before serious damage is done to the U.S. and world economy.
Obama "refuses to negotiate," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio., told reporters after private talks that lasted more than an hour. "All we're asking for here is a discussion and fairness for the American people under Obamacare."
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said moments later, "We're locked in tight on Obamacare" and neither the president nor Democrats will accept changes in the nation's 3-year-old health care law as the price for spending legislation needed to end the two-day partial shutdown.
With the nation's ability to borrow money soon to lapse, Republicans and Democrats alike said the shutdown could last for two weeks or more, and soon oblige a divided government to grapple with both economy-threatening issues at the same time.
The White House said in a statement after the meeting that Obama had made it clear "he is not going to negotiate over the need for Congress to act to reopen the government or to raise the debt limit to pay the bills Congress has already incurred."
It added, "The president remains hopeful that common sense will prevail."
The high-level bickering at microphones set up outside the White House reflected the day's proceedings in the Capitol.
The Republican-controlled House approved legislation to reopen the nation's parks and the National Institutes of Health, even though many Democrats criticized them as part of a piecemeal approach that fell far short of what was needed. The bills face dim prospects in the Senate, and the White House threatened to veto both in the unlikely event they make it to Obama's desk.
"What we're trying to do is to get the government open as quickly as possible," said the House majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia. "And all that it would take is us realizing we have a lot in agreement."
Earlier, an attempt by Democrats to force shutdown-ending legislation to the House floor failed on a 227-197 vote, with all Republicans in opposition. That left intact the tea party-driven strategy of demanding changes to the nation's health care overhaul as the price for essential federal financing, despite grumbling from Republican moderates.
The stock market ended lower as Wall Street CEOs, Europe's central banker and traders pressed for a solution. Chief executives from the nation's biggest financial firms met Obama for more than an hour Wednesday, some of them plainly frustrated with the tactics at play in Congress and with the potential showdown coming over the debt limit.
"You can re-litigate these policy issues in a political forum, but we shouldn't use threats of causing the U.S. to fail on its obligations to repay its debt as a cudgel," Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, said after the meeting.
Democrats were scathing in their criticism.
"The American people would get better government out of Monkey Island at the local zoo than we're giving them today," said Rep. John Dingell of Michigan.
The Republican National Committee announced it would pay for personnel needed to reopen the World War II Memorial, a draw for aging veterans from around the country that is among the sites shuttered. In a statement, party chairman Reince Priebus challenged Democrats "to join with us in keeping this memorial open."
Democrats labeled that a stunt. "We've already been working on a plan to open the Memorial — and the entire government — after the GOP caused them to close," said party spokesman Mo Elleithee. "It's called a clean" spending bill.
As it turned out, more than 125 World War II veterans from Mississippi and Iowa who were initially kept out of the memorial Tuesday were escorted to the site with the help of members of Congress. Officials made further arrangements to allow veterans groups into the memorial during the shutdown.
A sampling of federal agencies showed how unevenly the shutdown was felt across the government.
The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development listed only six per cent of their employees as essential, and therefore permitted to work during the impasse. James R. Clapper, director of national intelligence, said about 70 per cent of civilian employees in agencies under his control had been sent home.
By contrast, about 86 per cent of employees of the Department of Homeland Security remained on the job, and 95 per cent at the Veterans Affairs Department.
One furloughed employee, meteorologist Amy Fritz, said, "I want to get back to work." At a news conference arranged by congressional Democrats, the 38-year-old National Weather Service employee said she has more than $100,000 in student loan debt and is looking at ways to cut her budget.
In an interview with CNBC before meeting with lawmakers, Obama said he would not negotiate with Republicans until the government is reopened and Congress votes to raise the debt limit.
"If we get in the habit where a few folks, an extremist wing of one party, whether it's Democrat or Republican, are allowed to extort concessions based on a threat (to) undermine the full faith and credit of the United States, then any president who comes after me, not just me, will find themselves unable to govern effectively," he said.
"The White House said Obama would have to truncate a long-planned trip to Asia, calling off the final two stops in Malaysia and the Philippines.
The shutdown also intruded into the race for governor of Virginia.
Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat, said he supported legislation to guarantee retroactive pay for furloughed federal employees. The Republican contender, Ken Cuccinelli, called on members of Congress to decline their pay as long as the shutdown lasts.
The House sidetracked legislation Tuesday night to reopen some veterans programs, the national parks and a portion of the Washington, D.C., municipal government. All three bills fell short of the two-thirds majority needed when Democrats voted overwhelmingly against this.
Republicans tried again, this time under rules requiring only a simple majority. The parks measure was approved on a vote of 252-173, with 23 Democrats breaking ranks and voting in favour. The vote to reopen NIH was 254-171. The House also voted to allow the Washington, D.C., government to use the taxes it collects to operate programs.
Votes were deferred on more bills, one to assure pay for members of the National Guard and Reserves and another to allow some veterans programs to resume.
The NIH bill was added to the day's agenda after Democrats had said seriously ill patients would be turned away from the facility's hospital of last resort, and no new enrolment permitted in experimental treatments.
Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York said the Republican response was a ploy. "Every time they see a bad headline they're going to bring a bill to the floor and make it go away," she said.
Some Republicans took obvious pleasure in the rough rollout Tuesday of new health insurance markets created under Obama's health care law. Widespread online glitches prevented many people from signing up for coverage that begins in January.
Rep. Trey Radel of Florida said a 14-year-old could build a better website "in an afternoon in his basement."
At issue is the need to pass a temporary funding bill to keep the government open since the start of the new budget year on Tuesday.
Congress has passed more than 100 temporary funding bills since the last shutdown in 1996, almost all of them without controversy. The streak was broken because conservative Republicans have held up the current measure in the longshot hope of derailing or delaying Obamacare, just as the health insurance markets at the heart of the law opened on Tuesday.
Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Donna Cassata, Henry Jackson, Julie Pace, Jessica Gresko, Darlene Superville and Seth Borenstein contributed to this story
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, about the government shutdown. Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown Tuesday as a protracted dispute over Obama's signature health care law reached a boiling point, forcing some 800,000 federal workers off the job. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (2ndR), speaks while flanked by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) (R), Sen. John Thune (R-SD) (2nd-L) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) (L) after the Senate Republican policy luncheon, on Capitol Hill, October 1, 2013 in Washington D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, looks on as Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, pauses during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 in Washington. Congress was unable to reach a midnight deadline to keep the government funded, triggering the first government shutdown in more than 17 years. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
A protester covers his mouth with a dollar bill as he joins others in a demonstration in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on October 1, 2013 urging congress to pass the budget bill. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
A US Park Police officer watches at left as a National Park Service employee posts a sign on a barricade closing access to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel listens on speaker phone during a conversation with Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and other senior Defense Department officials about the U.S. government shutdown, at his hotel in Seoul, South Korea on Tuesday Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
A notice advising visitors that the American Cemetery is closed due to the partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government hangs from the gates of the cemetery in Suresnes, west of Paris, Tuesday Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the launch of the Affordable Care Act's health insurance marketplaces and the first federal government shutdown in 17 years as he's joined by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (R) and Americans who will benefit from the Affordable Care Act in the Rose Garden of the White House October 1, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Park Ranger Scott Rolfes locks a gate closing a road over the dam at Saylorville Lake, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in Saylorville, Iowa. About 800,000 federal workers are being forced off the job in the first government shutdown in 17 years, suspending most nonessential federal programs and services. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
MLK Jr. Monument
A U.S. Park Service worker hammers a iron stake into the ground to install a fence around the Martin Luther King Monument in Washington, D.C., October 1, 2013, as the first U.S. Federal government shutdown since 1995 begins. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Fay Wagstaff, right, and her mother Fernanda Wagstaff of El Paso, Texas., sit outside the closed Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Everglades National Park
Park Ranger Christine MacKarvich mans the Shark Valley entrance booth in Everglades National Park, early Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. She was told to report to work but had been warned that a call from the park service would shut the park down. The partial government shutdown that began Tuesday left many federal workers uncertain of their financial future, with many facing unpaid furloughs or delays in paychecks. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)
U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) (R) talks to a military veteran at the World War II Memorial during a government shutdown October 1, 2013 in Washington, D.C. The memorial was temporary opened to veteran groups arrived on Honor Flights on a day trip to visit the nation's capital. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough listens to President Barack Obama deliver remarks about the launch of the Affordable Care Act's health insurance marketplaces and the first federal government shutdown in 17 years in the Rose Garden of the White House October 1, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Visitors to Independence National Historical Park are reflected in the window of the closed building housing the Liberty Bell, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Statue Of Liberty
A park ranger, who declined to give his name, reads a sign announcing the closing of the Statue of Liberty, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A U.S. Park Police officer ties police tape to a hand rail closing access to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Statue Of Liberty
A tour operator uses a megaphone to announce that the Statue of Liberty is closed due to a government shutdown, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 in New York. The shutdown, the first since the winter of 1995-96, closed national parks across the nation. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A government employee steps out of an opening in a door at Castle Clinton National Monument in lower Manhattan, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Statue Of Liberty
People look at a sign for informing that the Statue of Liberty is closed due to the government shutdown in Battery Park on October 1, 2013 in New York City. Federal museums and parks across the nation are closed starting today due to a government shutdown for the first time in nearly two decades. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
US Park Rangers place barricades in front of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC, October 1, 2013, as all National Parks closed due to a US government shutdown. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
National Gallery Of Art
A group of art students take up the staircase of the National Art Gallery as it is closed due to Federal government shutdown in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2013. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Clinton Presidential Library
Visitors walk from the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark., after being informed that the building is closed Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 because of the government shutdown. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Ebenezer Baptist Church
A man walks past a sign on the doors of historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta notifying visitors that the church is closed because of the government shutdown, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
World War II Memorial
A US military war veteran visits the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2013. The US Park Service opened the area to the veterans who are brought to Washington to visit and reflect at their memorials. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
World War II Memorial
U.S. military war veteran takes photos at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on October 1, 2013. The U.S. Park Service opened the area to the veterans who are brought to Washington to visit and reflect at their memorials. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)
US Rep. Michelle Bachmann (L),R-MN, greets a US military war veteran as he arrives to visit the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2013. The US Park Service opened the area to the veterans who are brought to Washington to visit and reflect at their memorials. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
World War II Memorial
A closure sign is seen as US military war veterans visit the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2013. The US Park Service opened the area to the veterans who are brought to Washington to visit and reflect at their memorials. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Republicans Address The Media
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 01: U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L), U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) (C) and U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) (R) speak to the media during a news conference on Capitol Hill, October 1, 2013 in Washington D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
U.S. Park Police Officers yell at a biker while closing the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall October 1, 2013 in Washington, D.C. The U.S. government is in a forced shutdown after lawmakers failed to pass a spending bill last night. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A U.S. National Parks Service sign is seen on a fence near the Mall in Washington, D.C., on October 1, 2013. The U.S. government shut down Tuesday for the first time in 17 years after a gridlocked Congress failed to reach a federal budget deal amid bitter brinkmanship.(KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
World War II Memorial
Temporary fencing around the World War II Memorial prevents people from entering the monument on the National Mall October 1, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A U.S. Park Police Officer stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on October 1, 2013. The U.S. lurched into a dreaded government shutdown today for the first time in 17 years, after Congress failed to end a bitter budget row after hours of dizzying brinkmanship. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman views the Jefferson Memorial from behind barricades in Washington, D.C., on October 1, 2013. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
An employee at Z-Burger in Washington, DC, prepares food during the lunch hour rush October 1, 2013. The fast-food chain is promising free hamburgers to federal workers who find themselves furloughed after the US government shutsdown Tuesday, its founder and proprietor Peter Tabibian said. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
White House Visitor Center
U.S. National Park Service employee Neil Hewett places a closure sign at the White House Visitor Center in Washington, D.C., on October 1, 2013. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Tourists ride bicycles down the National Mall in Washington, D.C., October 1, 2013, as the first U.S. Federal government shutdown since 1995 begins. The U.S. Park Police have closed off the mall to vehicle and pedestrian traffic due to the U.S. Government partial shutdown. A spokesperson for the U.S. National Park Service said it is technically illegal to use the mall. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Johnson Space Center
Cars pass by NASA's Johnson Space Center Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
World War II Memorial
Korean War veteran Robert Olson, from Iowa, is pushed in his wheelchair by Zach Twedt, also from Iowa, around the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead National Recreation Area park maintenance worker Donna Curry locks up a restroom facility at a picnic area inside the park,Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, near Boulder City, Nev. A partial government shutdown, caused by a budget impasse in Congress, has forced the closure of public sites including the nation's national parks. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
A barrier blocks the path along the Tidal Basin in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, that leads to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial which is closed. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
National Zoological Park Police Officer Will Jones directs visitor Miguel Miranda and his family of Mexico at the entrance of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, as the zoo is closed due to the government shutdown. Miranda was advised to turn around. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
The U.S. Capitol is seen behind an area closed for restoration sign on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
The White House is seen behind a stop sign in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2013. The U.S. government shut down Tuesday for the first time in 17 years after a gridlocked Congress failed to reach a federal budget deal amid bitter brinkmanship. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
The Washington Monument is seen behind a chain fence in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2013. (AREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
A rickshaw (pedicab) puller, who's main business is to transport tourists from one attraction to another in the capital, takes a nap near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on October 1, 2013 during the first day of the federal government shutdown. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
The Morning Papers
A woman buys a copy of the New York Daily News, featuring Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner following, an U.S. government shutdown in New York, October 1, 2013. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
A cyclist reads a sign announcing the closure of a Park Service facility at Crissy Field due to the partial government shutdown on October 1, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A visitor takes a picture of a sign announcing the closure of the Fort Point National Historic Site due to the partial government shutdown on October 1, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., left, and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa listens to remarks by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., as they celebrate the start of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, during an event with other lawmakers and people whose lives have been impacted by lack of health insurance, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Blue Ridge Parkway Folk Art Center
Resa Mestel, of New York, reacts after finding the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville, N.C., closed due to the government shutdown Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)