WASHINGTON (AFP) - Republicans launched a furious counter-attack on the White House as the US government shutdown drags into a fifth day with no end in sight.
With lawmakers heading into the weekend, Congress appeared no closer to resolving the impasse, even as a far more challenging fiscal hurdle - the need to raise the US debt ceiling or suffer a catastrophic credit default - was barely 12 days away.
"This isn't some damn game," boomed House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, seeking to seize the moral high ground, after a report cited an unnamed official saying that the White House is benefiting from the shutdown, which has sent hundreds of thousands home without pay.
"This morning, I get the Wall Street Journal out and it says, 'well, we don't care how long this lasts, because we're winning,'" Mr Boehner said, theatrically waving a copy of the paper.
"The American people don't want their government shut down and neither do I," he added.
"All we're asking for is to sit down and have a discussion, reopen the government and bring fairness to the American people under 'Obamacare,'" the health care law that is President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement.
The White House on Friday tried to contain the damage from the Journal quote, which dominated the media messaging war raging between Mr Obama and his Republican foes on Capitol Hill.
Mr Obama even staged a photo op - a rare stroll outside the White House to a nearby sandwich shop - to try and arrest the fallout.
"There's no winning when families don't have any certainty over whether they are going to get paid or not," he said of the first shutdown in 17 years.
"This shutdown could be over today," Mr Obama added, calling on Mr Boehner to call a vote on a temporary funding measure to reopen government.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate will convene rare Saturday sessions.