Dems huddle with Obama's chief of staff

Dems huddle with Obama's chief of staff
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With just hours left left until the government shuts down, the House Democratic Caucus is huddling in the Capitol to debate support for a $1.1 trillion government funding package that has strong backing from the White House.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her lieutenants are weighing their next move after opposition in their ranks forced GOP leaders to delay a vote Thursday on a $1.1 trillion bill that would fund the government through September.

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House GOP leaders say the only other alternative to the so-called "cromnibus," which appeared to lack the votes, is a three-month stopgap measure.

But Democrats are insisting that lawmakers strip out controversial provisions that would increase the maximum campaign donations people can make to party committees as well as changes to the Dodd-Frank financial reform overhaul.

Entering the caucus meeting, Pelosi was asked whether Democrats would shut the government down to stop the funding bill.

"We're not doing that,” she said.

President Obama's chief of staff, Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughFormer Obama officials willing to testify on McCabe's behalf: report Trailer shows first look at Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE, came to the Capitol for the Democratic meeting as the administration mounted a full-court press to try and rally support for the bill.

"It was a great opportunity, I really appreciate it," McDonough said as he left the meeting. 

But it was not immediately clear whether the chief of staff had changed any minds.

Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerClinton advises checking your voter registration during Trump's State of the Union Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley to boycott State of the Union 10 Democrats to boycott Trump State of the Union address MORE (D-Ore.) said McDonough "did a good job of articulating the concerns of what happens" if Congress ends up approving a series of short-term funding bills.

"I don't know that he moved a lot of people," Bluemenauer said. 

Obama, Vice President Biden and other officials were  working the phones trying to sell Democrats on what the White House considers a "good deal."

"What we're doing is casting a wide net and encouraging as many Democrats as possible to take a close look at what's actually included in this legislation, because there's a lot in there to like," said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

But that lobbying pressure is ruffling feathers among Democrats, with Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) declaring liberals won't be "intimidated" by the White House.

"We don't like lobbying that is being done by the president or anybody else that would allow us to support a bill that ... would give a big gift to Wall Street and the bankers who caused this country to almost go into a depression," she said. "So I'm opposed to it and we're going to fight it."

Pelosi announced her opposition to the bill in a speech earlier Thursday on the House floor, saying Democrats were being “blackmailed” into voting for unacceptable provisions.

The Democratic leader is not whipping votes against the funding package, but her stance presents a huge hurdle for Republican leaders, who were counting on significant Democratic support to make up for defections in their conference.

The government will shut down at midnight unless the House and Senate pass a temporary measure that even lasts for as little as two days.

The House chamber has been in recess since 2:07 p.m. 

— This story was updated at 7:34 p.m.