The US government was on the brink of a partial shutdown Monday after the Democratic-led Senate refused to back down in a clash with the Republican-led House over President Barack Obama's landmark health law.
Hours before a midnight deadline, the Senate voted 54-46 to reject a proposal by House Republicans to work a delay of health care plan into a temporary funding bill. It is now up to the House of Representatives to accept a bill that doesn't delay the health initiative - which it has refused to do - or find an alternative acceptable to the Senate.
Late Monday, Obama called Republican and Democratic congressional leaders but there was no breakthrough in the budget impasse.
If it fails to do either of those options, the government faces its first partial shutdown in 17 years. It would force 800,000 federal workers off the job without pay and rattle the shaky US economic recovery.
''We're at the brink,'' said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat, as House Republican leaders calculated their next move.
The stock market dropped on fears that political gridlock between the White House and the Republican Party would prevail, though analysts suggested significant damage to the national economy was unlikely unless a shutdown lasted more than a few days.
Ramping up pressure on Republicans to avoid a post-midnight government shutdown, Obama warned such a move would ''throw a wrench into the gears'' of a recovering economy and hurt hundreds of thousands of government workers.
Some critical services would continue during a shutdown, such as patrolling the borders and controlling air traffic. The State Department would continue processing foreign applications for visas, and embassies and consulates overseas would continue to provide services to American citizens.
As lawmakers squabbled, Obama urged House Republicans to abandon demands he said were designed to ''save face after making some impossible promises to the extreme right of their party.'' Speaking of the health care law that undergoes a major expansion on Tuesday, he said emphatically, ''You can't shut it down.''
Earlier, the president said he was willing to discuss budget issues with congressional leaders. He added, ''The