A senior House Democrat left the door open that his caucus would consider a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded past September at the Republicans' preferred rate so long as it doesn't include a provision to defund or delay Obamacare.
But House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra stopped far short of saying such a hypothetical measure would have widespread Democratic backing, even suggesting he would have trouble supporting it.
"If it's a clean vote on a budget bill that keeps the economy moving, we're prepared to look at it," the California lawmaker told reporters Wednesday.
"If we can dispose of all that game playing and have a clean budget, I think Democrats are not only ready to step to the plate but anxious to step to plate — but a clean budget without all those gimmicks and toys that Republicans have added."
House GOP leaders are expected to hold a vote this week on a continuing resolution to keep federal agencies funded until Dec. 15 at the $988 billion annual rate of the 2013 sequester spending cuts. The measure also is expected to include a provision to choke off funding for President Obama's Affordable Care Act.
Democrats, instead, have pressed for a spending bill at the pre-sequester rate of $1.058 billion, saying the Republicans' number would cut essential government services too deeply. Democrats also have insisted a spending bill be "clean" of any attempt to defund or delay the health care law.
Caucus Vice Chairman Joe Crowley said that while Democrats are willing to negotiate a spending level for a continuing resolution, the $988 billion proposal — and certainly a $967 billion level pushed by some Republicans — are too low and would handcuff government agencies and hurt the still fragile economy.
"We're not locking into a number but we know those numbers don't work for our country," the New York Democrat said.
Becerra also said he personally "could not live with" the $988 billion spending level.