Congressional leaders emerged Wednesday night from a meeting with President Obama at the White House reporting little progress as all sides struggle for a solution to the government shutdown, which began Tuesday and showed no signs of breaking.
At the Capitol, the House continued to try to chip away at the problem by passing bills to fund high-profile programs such as national parks and the National Institutes of Health. But Mr. Obama has vowed to veto those bills, saying he won’t fund the government piece by piece.
Instead, Democrats held firm on their insistence that Republicans pass the Senate’s version of a spending bill that would fund the entire government at last year’s levels, and would preserve Mr. Obama’s health care law.
“They will not negotiate,” House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, told reporters after the meeting.
Although both sides said they didn’t want a shutdown, congressional aides were predicting that the fight could last for weeks. Mr. Obama canceled part of a trip to Asia, scheduled to begin this weekend, to keep working on the issue.
Some lawmakers said the spending fight is likely to get wrapped up in a battle over the government’s debt ceiling, which the Treasury says it will hit in two weeks.
Republican unity is beginning to fray, with a significant number of House Republicans saying they would vote for the Senate spending bill if given a chance. For now, they also are voting for the bills Republican leaders are putting on the floor to fund popular parts of the government.
The bill to fund the national parks passed on a 252-173 vote, while the measure to fund the NIH cleared on a 254-171 vote. In both cases, about two dozen Democrats joined with the Republicans.
The White House, though, said the bills were non-starters and “not a serious or responsible way to run the United States government.”
In addition to the NIH and parks bills, the House held a revote on a measure to let the District of Columbia spend its own tax money on operations, which would ensure it could stay open throughout a shutdown. As a federal district, it normally would have to tie its budget to the rest of federal funding.
On Tuesday, House Democrats blocked the D.C. bill, but Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city’s nonvoting member of Congress, said she worked to persuade her fellow Democrats to free the District from the spending fight. The bill passed Wednesday on a voice vote.
“It’s our money, not yours,” said Ms. Norton, who vowed to work on Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats to follow the House’s lead.
“All we’re asking for here is a discussion and fairness for the American people under Obamacare,” he said, alluding to some of the exceptions and delays Mr. Obama has granted to labor unions and businesses.
Democrats countered that Republicans are trying to win on two major points: denting Obamacare and funding basic government services at a $986 billion level in fiscal year 2014.