By Elise Viebeck - 10/03/13 03:42 PM EDT
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) suggested Thursday that a "clean" government funding bill could not pass the House because not all Democrats would support it.
GOP leaders faced criticism in some quarters for refusing to allow the vote. Some have argued that a clean continuing resolution (CR) could pass the House, given that a handful of Republicans and many Democrats would support the bill.
But Cantor suggested Thursday that the Democratic caucus is not united around the $986 billion spending level, which reflects cuts from the sequester.
"Ask the Democrats in this House whether they support a clean [continuing resolution] with sequester or not," Cantor said at a press conference Thursday.
"This assumption that everyone is operating on, that there is unanimity on the Democratic side, that they would support a CR at sequester level, is an assumption that I would question."
Democrats are united on calling for a vote on a clean CR, but some of the most progressive lawmakers would oppose the measure.
According to his office, Progressive Caucus Co-Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) would not vote for a government funding bill that includes the sequester cuts.
"Nope, that [spending level] is too low for him," spokesman Adam Sarvana told The Hill.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) quickly sought to tamp down suggestions that her caucus is not united.
In a memo to reporters entitled "Cantor Can't Count," Pelosi's office said that more than 100 House Democrats have committed to vote for the clean CR passed by the Senate.
"It's time for the GOP to end these games and do what's right for the American people and bring a vote to the floor immediately to end this reckless GOP shutdown," the memo stated.
“Mr. Hoyer has been clear that Democrats support a clean government funding bill, and there is a bipartisan majority in the House ready to pass it [the Senate CR at sequester levels] so we can reopen the government immediately,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) spokesperson, Katie Grant.
The squabbling comes amid signs of fracture in both parties as the government shutdown enters its third day.
Almost 20 GOP lawmakers have said they would support a clean CR to fund the government in opposition to their leadership.
And Wednesday, more than 20 Democrats sided with Republicans on single votes to fund national parks and the National Institutes of Health.
Seventeen Republicans would have to vote for a clean CR along with every Democrat in order for the bill to pass.
Cantor made his comments at a press conference on the NIH bill, which Senate Democrats have refused to take up in a strategic bid to keep Republicans on the hot seat.
Cantor spokeswoman Rory Cooper slammed this approach and suggested a majority of senators would support GOP priorities like the piecemeal spending bills and ending healthcare subsidies for Congress.
"My hope is people start asking the senators why they're not bring up these to the bills for votes," Cooper said.
— Bernie Becker and Mike Lillis contributed to this report, which was updated at 12:39 p.m.