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No Progress at White House Talks on Budget Impasse

U.S. congressional leaders have emerged from a meeting with President Barack Obama, reporting no progress on the budget impasse that has shut down the federal government.

The Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate met behind closed doors with Mr. Obama for about an hour at the White House Wednesday evening.

Afterward, House Speaker John Boehner said President Obama told him he will not negotiate a deal to reopen the government. Republican Boehner said he told the president he wants a discussion of what he called the "fairness" of Mr. Obama's signature health care program.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid emerged from the meeting saying Democrats are happy to talk to the Republicans about anything they want, but only if a spending bill is passed and the government shutdown ends.

The White House called Wednesday's meeting useful and said the president is glad it took place. But before the talks, Mr. Obama told CNBC television he has "bent over backwards" to work with the Republicans. He said he is exasperated, calling the government shutdown totally unnecessary.

The U.S. government shut down at midnight Monday after Democrats refused to pass Republican spending bills that would defund or postpone the health care program.

Mr. Obama said no president can govern effectively if he allows extremists from either party to extort concessions. He appealed to Speaker Boehner to bring a clean spending bill to the House floor for a vote.

The shutdown has furloughed more than 800,000 federal workers and closed national parks and many federal agencies. The shutdown is not affecting Voice of America broadcasts, but it has closed Smithsonian museums and services like tax offices, help for veterans, and some food aid for the poor.

The government shutdown also is forcing President Obama to cancel stops in Malaysia and the Philippines during his trip to Asia starting Saturday. But VOA White House correspondent Dan Robinson says Mr. Obama still plans to visit Indonesia and Brunei for the APEC and East Asia summits.

Implementation of the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed "Obamacare," went ahead as scheduled Tuesday. It is intended to provide health insurance coverage to millions of Americans who otherwise cannot afford or get coverage.

Republican opponents of Obamacare say it forces people, including small businesses, to buy expensive insurance policies against their will, hurting the economy.

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