Pelosi: 'Across-the-board' Dem opposition to GOP spending bill

House Democrats stand ready to oppose a sequester-level spending bill, "almost across the board," Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday.

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The Democratic leader said most in her caucus tend to side with Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, who says he'll vote against any continuing resolution (CR) at the sequester level of $986 billion, even if it excludes language defunding ObamaCare, and even if it leads to a government shutdown.

"Our whip has been very, very forceful, and I think he speaks for our Caucus almost across the board when he says we just cannot have that number," Pelosi said during her weekly press briefing in the Capitol. 

"We'll see when it comes back [from the Senate], but right now the mood is not favorable to a 986 number."

The House is scheduled to vote Friday on a Republican CR that would extend government funding at the current $986 billion level and defund ObamaCare. The bill is a nonstarter with Democrats because of the attack on President Obama's healthcare law, but it remains unclear what will happen when the bill returns from the Senate next week. 

Senate Democrats appear to have the votes to remove the ObamaCare language, but it's less clear if they can hike funding closer to the $1.058 trillion level for which they've advocated.

If the bill returns to the House at the sequester level, but without the healthcare provisions, it will lose many conservative Republicans and confront Democrats with a difficult question: Vote to keep the sequester cuts they oppose or risk shutting down the government — and potentially absorbing some of the blame?

A number of Democrats, like Hoyer, fall squarely in the latter camp. 

"I say a government shutdown is better than reverting to long-term sequester-level funding," Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said Wednesday. 

Pelosi emphasized Thursday that Democrats don't expect to get the higher funding level pushed by Senate Democrats but do want something higher than $986 billion.

"We're not demanding 1058," she said. "But we do think that there's a compromise that can be reached.

"We've suggested a splitting the difference, that didn't seem to work so far," she added.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declined Thursday to discuss what might happen when the bill returns from the Senate as expected next week. 

If Congress fails to act by the end of Sept. 30, a large portion of the government would shut down the next day.

The Republicans have also launched an effort to block ObamaCare implementation as part of their proposal to raise the debt ceiling, an issue Congress must address by mid-October. But many conservatives say there's an urgency to go after ObamaCare as part of the CR, and not the debt ceiling, because the new insurance exchanges — a central element of the healthcare law — launch Oct. 1.  

"There are some of my colleagues [who] say, 'Let's just go ahead and let the pain happen,' Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said Wednesday. "I disagree. I think it's a bad thing. … So why even start it Oct. 1? This is the line in the sand."

Pelosi, for her part, is still in wait-and-see mode. But she also cautioned GOP leaders that, if they want Democratic support for passing the CR, they'd have to give Democrats a hand in the legislation.

"I can't tell you what we will take until we see what the bill is," she said. "The Democrats can supply votes if the Democrats have a say in what the legislation is."