Much of the government has been shutdown -- hundreds of thousands of workers furloughed, national parks closed, programs for anything from child care to space exploration shuttered -- for four days.
And it's likely to remain closed for several days if not weeks more, House Republicans concede.
Despite public pressure to reach a resolution -- and public promises they want to, if only the other side would give in -- Washington politicians remained at odds Friday. And there's little indication there will be any breakthrough until at least mid-October, when the next economic crisis comes up over whether Congress gives the federal government the OK to increase how much it can borrow, or else default on its debt.
"I don't see anything happening with the shutdown until we get some kind of a plan for a bigger agreement," Rep. Charles Boustany said after meeting Friday morning with fellow Republicans.
Among those at that closed-door meeting was House Speaker John Boehner. He spoke to reporters Friday as well, trying to ratchet up pressure on President Barack Obama to end the crisis following his approach -- negotiate changes to Obamacare as part of any deal.
Fuming about a Wall Street Journal report citing an unnamed Obama administration saying "we are winning," Boehner said, "This isn't some damn game!"
"The American people don't want their government shut down and neither do I," the Ohio Republican said. "All we are asking for is to sit down and to have a discussion and to bring fairness."
For his part, Obama said he and fellow Democrats are willing to negotiate with Republicans on budgetary matters -- but only after they agree to open up the government first.
"I'm happy to have negotiations," he said at a delicatessen near the White House. "We can't do it with a gun held to the head of the American people."
The president stressed that what's unfolding is very serious -- noting its impact on legions of government workers and contractors, not to mention those who rely on government's help.
"There is no winning when families don't have certainly about whether they're going to be paid or not," Obama said. "... As long as they're off the job, nobody's winning."
GOP legislator outlines possible solution
While the shutdown stalemate continues, some of the focus has shifted to the next potential crisis: what Congress does about the so-called debt ceiling, with experts warning of grave economic harm, both at home and abroad, if nothing is done.
The Treasury says the government is set to run out of money to cover its roughly $16.7 trillion debt on October 17, requiring an increase in the amount it can borrow.
Boehner told fellow GOP legislators this week that he won't allow the United States to default on its debt, even if it means getting help from Democrats to pass the necessary legislation, according to a Republican House member who requested anonymity to talk about the private meeting.
The speaker said publicly Friday that "I don't believe we should default on our debt," then repeated his longstanding contention that government spending must be cut so that the nation doesn't continue to rack up budget deficits.
Still, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said the move could mark "the beginnings of a significant breakthrough."
"Even coming close to the edge of default is very dangerous, and putting this issue to rest significantly ahead of the default date would allow everyone in the country to breathe a huge sigh of relief," Schumer said.
Even with that deadline looming, top House GOP leaders didn't discuss plans to address the debt ceiling at the Friday morning meeting -- though smaller groups are looking into it. At a Thursday meeting, Boehner talked with a small group of Republicans to get a pulse on what the rest of the caucus wants.
"Boehner told us that we've got to get something with regard to (the) budget and the debt in order to raise the debt ceiling," one GOP member who attended the session told CNN.
Boustany, the Louisiana Republican, outlined what he thinks could serve as a framework for an agreement -- changes to entitlement programs that Obama has suggested before and detailed targets for tax reform, both items that Republicans want. In return, the GOP-led House could agree to raise the debt limit potentially through the rest of the president's term.
But the House Republican who met with Boehner said, given the calendar, there may not be enough time to enact substantial policy changes that Republicans and some Democrats would agree to.
"Everyone understands that the Obamacare issue may be out of reach, probably always was," the legislator said, referring to House GOP members' insistence that they wouldn't agree to a plan to fund the government unless it includes provisions to defund or delay parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
"But if the president thinks he is going to be able to hold (his) ground with negotiations on the debt limit, he sounds like Ted Cruz," referring to the Texas senator and tea party favorite who has been one of the party's biggest, most steadfast thorns in Democrats' side.
Dems continue push for 'clean' spending bill