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Obama summons Hill leaders to White House on shutdown's second day

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President Obama peauses during his speech Tuesday in the White House Rose Garden. AP photo President Obama peauses during his speech Tuesday in the White House Rose Garden. AP photo
WASHINGTON (NBC) -

By Michael O'Brien and Carrie Dann, NBC News

President Barack Obama summoned leaders in Congress from both parties to the White House on Wednesday as the federal government shutdown entered its second day with no immediate resolution in sight.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., were set to huddle with the president at 5:30 p.m.

At the meeting, Obama "will urge the House to pass the clean CR to reopen the government, and call on Congress to act to raise the debt ceiling to pay the bills we have already incurred and avoid devastating consequences on our economy," a White House official said.

A spokesman for Boehner said: "We're pleased the president finally recognizes that his refusal to negotiate is indefensible. 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."

The talks held hopes of jump-starting negotiations toward ending a government shutdown that stretched into its second day on Wednesday. The second day of the shutdown appeared ready to mirror the first: a day featuring photo-ops and a handful of strategic votes and rhetorical barbs traded between the parties.

"It's time for Republicans to stop throwing one crazy idea after another at the wall in hopes that something will stick," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., again urging the GOP to take up the simple, six-week extension of government spending favored by Democrats. "Right now, Republicans led by John Boehner are the only thing standing between Congress and compromise."

Meanwhile, the GOP-held House was back in session early Wednesday, planning to hold a series of votes throughout the afternoon to fund some of the most popular items impacted by the shutdown. The House was set to vote on five mini-funding bills to reinstate spending for the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Parks, the D.C. city government and funding for military reservists.

The White House said Obama would veto each of them.

And as the impasse played out, Obama was scheduled to meet with members of the Financial Services Forum, a group of high-profile business leaders including the heads of many major banks. Those businesses would be among the most severely threatened by a default on the national debt, which will arrive Oct. 17 unless Congress acts to authorize increased borrowing, a vote tied closely into the current political standoff over funding the government.

The administration also sounded the alarm bells over the potential national security implications of the shutdown. On Capitol Hill, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the shuttering of the government "seriously damages our ability to protect the safety and security of this nation and its citizens."

The latest action on Capitol Hill, though, reflected more of a messaging effort by Republicans than anything else. Republicans gleefully accused Democrats and Obama of opposing cancer research at the National Institutes of Health, or opening the World War II memorial for visiting veterans. (The latter issue erupted Tuesday after a group of WWII veterans flown to Washington through the "Honor Flight" program defied Park Police and entered the memorial despite the fact that it had technically closed.)

Republicans' scheduled votes on Wednesday came after they actually failed to volley similar legislation to the Senate on Tuesday.

Those separate funding bills, which required a two-thirds majority to pass, all failed after most Democrats refused to help the GOP pass the legislation. Wednesday's votes to approve similar legislation again on Wednesday would likely come under a procedural rule that would require only a simple majority for passage.

As the posturing in Washington continued, the debate in Congress took a personal turn as well. After name-checking House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and referring to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann as "anarchists," Reid complained that Republicans were "too obsessed with getting me."

"I'm not a criminal. I'm not a scoundrel," said the top Senate Democrat. "So they better get a better definition for me."

The back-and-forth came against a backdrop of outrage and annoyance from members of the public who were turned away from museums and attractions – to say nothing of furloughed federal workers nervous about their next payday.

One of the latest casualties of the shutdown: military commissaries that cater to the families of service members and veterans will reportedly be shuttered starting Wednesday.

Even the Capitol building appeared deserted in the midst of ongoing negotiations. Up to two-thirds of each office's staff is at home and they've been ordered to turn their government-issued BlackBerry devices off.

As the debate played out, it also threatened to overshadow the somewhat rocky implementation of health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

The new HealthCare.Gov website crashed early Tuesday morning, prompting ridicule and concerns from Republicans who oppose the law and say it must be delayed.

"The roll-out of this thing made a trip to the DMV seem like a good time," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday on the Senate floor.

Still, the error messages and slow Web traffic were drowned out by debate about the budget standoff, which shows no signs of abating. This as one estimate put the cost of the shutdown at $12.5 million an hour.

The White House appears confident that the battle will continue at least past Wednesday. The president is slated to visit a Maryland construction company Thursday to highlight the effects of the shutdown.

NBC News' Shawna Thomas and Stacey Klein contributed to this report.

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