The meeting, which was scheduled for 3 pm, had been delayed to "allow leaders in the Senate time to continue making important progress towards a solution that raises the debt limit and reopens the government," according to a White House statement.

The leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), held two rounds of talks on Monday.

Both men expressed optimism about a possible solution to the budget and debt impasse. Obama used Monday's Columbus Day holiday to visit a Washington charity, where he said that ‘if Republicans aren't willing to set aside some of their partisan concerns in order to do what's right for the country, we stand a good chance of defaulting’.

The government went into partial shutdown at midnight on September 30 after the Republican majority in the House of Representatives refused to pass a temporary funding measure - known as a continuing resolution - without a delay in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Obama's signature domestic initiative.

Even as the shutdown stalemate drags on, concern has shifted to the prospect of a US default if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling by October 17.

House Republicans said last week that they were prepared to pass a temporary increase in the debt ceiling, but without ending the shutdown.


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