In the House, Republicans were continuing their tactic of pushing through narrowly targeted bills — over Democratic objections — that would restart popular parts of the government.
On Wednesday, they debated a measure financing death benefits to families of fallen U.S. troops. Blaming the shutdown, the Pentagon has halted the $100,000 payments, usually made within three days of a death.
The stoppage of those payments drew the attention of Senate chaplain Barry Black, who in his prayer opening Wednesday's Senate session said, "When our federal shutdown delays payments of death benefits to families of children dying in faraway battlefields, it's time for our lawmakers to say, 'Enough is enough.' "
But an official of a conservative group that has pressed Republicans to try repealing Obama's health care law was unyielding, saying that fight should continue.
"We should not fund the government until we address the president's unfair, unaffordable and unworkable law," Michael Needham, chief executive officer of Heritage Action for America, said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.
Democratic senators took to the Capitol's steps to call on Republicans to reopen the government. But they struggled to be heard over chants from a nearby rally of Washington, D.C., residents asking Senate leaders to clear House-passed legislation letting the city use its own tax dollars to provide services.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray spoke briefly to Reid, who with other Democrats is blocking approval of House-passed bills reopening specific programs and is instead insisting the entire government be reopened.
"I'm on your side. Don't screw it up, okay? Don't screw it up," Reid was heard to tell Gray.
On Tuesday, Senate Democrats introduced legislation letting the government borrow money through Dec. 31, 2014. It contained no spending cuts or other deficit-cutting steps many Republicans seek.
The bill's fate was uncertain, since the 54 votes Democrats can usually muster are short of the 60 votes they would need to overcome a conservative filibuster aimed at derailing the bill. An initial test vote seemed likely by Saturday.
AP Special Correspondent David Espo, AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace and AP reporters Andrew Taylor and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.
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