Congressional leaders emerged from their meeting with President Obama at the White House Wednesday evening offering little hope for a breakthrough after the federal government skidded to a halt on Day 2 of shutdown.
"The president reiterated one more time tonight that he will not negotiate," House Speaker John Boehner as he left the meeting. "We had nice conversation—a light conversation, but at some point we have to allow process that the founders gave us to work out."
Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid put the blame directly on congressional Republicans, saying that the debt ceiling debate should not be muddled into the showdown over the government shutdown.
"The United States of America of will always honor the full faith and credit of our country and no president should be held hostage to that for social or political agenda," Pelosi said.
Far-right factions of the Republican Party set the motions for the government shutdown this week by demanding a delay to Obamacare as a precondition to keeping the government funded. Pelosi warned that the combination of a government shutdown and not raising the debt ceiling would be "cataclysmic."
"I can only conclude that they want to shut down government," Pelosi said of Republicans.
Senator Reid emphasized that the Affordable Care Act is non-negotiable. "We're locked in on Obamacare," he said.
Meanwhile, House Republicans pushed through a series of measures to keep portions of the government humming until Dec. 15. The measures would reinstate funding for popular federal programs from the national parks, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and funding for military reservists.
Obama had vowed to veto any mini-funding bills if they reach his desk. The measures are unlikely to advance through the Democrat-controlled Senate, in any case.
“Consideration of appropriations bills in a piecemeal fashion is not a serious or responsible way to run the United States government. Instead of opening up a few government functions, the House of Representatives should re-open all of the government,” the White House said in a statement Wednesday.
Ahead of the meeting, Obama turned to business networks and the country’s top CEOs to underscore how congressional Republicans were putting the economy at risk. In an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, the president said he has “bent over backward” to work with Republicans and had purposefully toned down his rhetoric against the lawmakers. But in Day 2 of the government shutdown, President Obama blamed Boehner for being “not willing to say no to a faction of the Republican Party that is willing to burn the house down because of an obsessions with my healthcare law.”
The White House announced on Wednesday that Obama was cutting his upcoming trip to Asia short, due to the government shutdown. Originally planned as a four-nation tour, Obama is still scheduled to travel to Indonesia and Brunei, but will postpone his visits to Malaysia and the Philippines.
Watch Reid explain that Obamacare is "locked in":