WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- Two days in, Congress is no closer to resolving the first government shutdown in 17 years.
President Obama has called the top four congressional leaders down to the White House for a meeting Wednesday afternoon. A White House official said the president will urge the House to pass a stopgap funding bill to reopen the government, and ask Congress to raise the debt ceiling ahead of an Oct. 17 deadline.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president is "attaching no partisan strings" to his request that Congress reopen the government. "What the president is asking Republicans in the House to do is quite literally the least they could do. He's asking them to extend funding at the levels set in the previous fiscal year to keep the government open."
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Republicans are seeking further negotiations. "It's unclear why we'd be having this meeting if it's not meant to be a start to serious talks between the two parties," Buck said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., sent a letter to Boehner Wednesday asking him to approve the Senate stopgap funding measure in exchange for a commitment to appoint senators to a committee to resolve longer-term budget issues. "This conference would be an appropriate place to have those discussions," Reid wrote.
"The entire government is shut down right now because Washington Democrats refuse to even talk about fairness for all Americans under Obamacare," responded Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, "Offering to negotiate only after Democrats get everything they want is not much of an offer."
House Republicans are moving forward again Wednesday with a legislative strategy to advance piecemeal funding bills to reopen popular parts of the federal government including parks and national memorials and the Department of Veterans Affairs until a broader budget agreement is reached. Republicans continue to seek concessions on the Affordable Care Act in exchange for passage of the funding bill.
"What I don't understand is why the president and the Senate Democrats will not agree to come talk to those of us that have deep concerns about the fairness of what is Obamacare. And that to me, is just not understandable to people in my district and across the country," Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, a conservative Republican, told CBS's This Morning.
Senate Democrats and Obama oppose the piecemeal approach and continue to call on Republicans to approve the Senate-passed stopgap funding bill through Nov. 15 that has no provisions affecting the health care law. Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., challenged Boehner to allow a vote on the bill, which appears to have the support to pass on the votes of Democrats and moderate Republicans.
"What is (Boehner) so afraid of?" Durbin said on the Senate floor.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she can deliver most of the Democrats' 200 House votes, and at least a dozen House Republicans have publicly said they would support a "clean" stopgap bill without provisions affecting the ACA.
One of those Republicans, Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., said he is working with a coalition of members and leadership to find a compromise. "I'm willing to do that and there are many members that are going to make that push," he told CNN's New Day.
Republicans are looking for ways to pass the stopgap bill and negotiate with Senate Democrats on a vote to raise the debt ceiling, the nation's borrowing limit.
"There is a strong possibility, if (Democrats) were willing to at least sit down and listen to us, that we could put a package together to solve all of these problems at once so we can get the government funded, stop this shutdown and also deal with the debt ceiling so that we don't have another crisis a week or two away from now," Grimm said.
Obama and Reid have been equally insistent that they will not negotiate on the debt ceiling because of the economic risks posed by a default. However, the two budget deadlines overlap further with each day the government remains shut down.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew advised Congress late Tuesday that he was exhausting the last measures before the debt ceiling is hit Oct. 17.
Senate GOP leaders said they'd like to resolve the two issues separately, but that it may not be possible. "Well, they are getting close to each other, aren't they? And I'd still like to resolve the current issue before we move on to the debt ceiling, but it's not exactly clear yet when that will be resolved," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Obama met Wednesday with executives from the nation's largest financial institutions.
Financial Services Forum Chairman Lloyd Blankfein said in a statement that they urged a quick resolution to the debt ceiling increase. "While the current government shutdown is unfortunate, the impacts of a debt default would be magnitudes worse and should not even be considered a viable option," Blankfein said, "The economic damage associated with default or near-default would be severe and have serious consequences for the recovery of the U.S. and global economy."