He has said repeatedly in recent weeks that he is willing to negotiate with Republicans on budget, health care or other issues, but only after the government is reopened and the threat of default eliminated.
The White House seemed to wobble on that point on Thursday, until Reid emphatically reinforced that it was his view, too.
Republicans have just as insistently demanded that Obama negotiate with them in exchange for passage of legislation that both sides agree is essential.
That left the White House and congressional leaders looking for a way to negotiate their way out of an impasse without appearing to negotiate — with the health of the nation's economy dependent on their political dexterity. The administration says the government will bump up against its borrowing limit next Thursday, raising the specter of an unprecedented default.