House Democratic leaders say they want to reach across the aisle to end the government shutdown, but one bipartisan solution being touted by a small group of moderates from both parties isn't what they had in mind.
According to multiple sources, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., expressed strong opposition in an Oct. 3 closed-door whip meeting to an effort spearheaded by New Democrat Coalition chairman Ron Kind of Wisconsin and leading GOP moderate Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.
Their proposal would fund the government for six months at the sequester level of $986 billion and contain no policy riders except for a repeal of a medical device tax that funds portions of the 2010 health law.
Pelosi rejected the plan in public last week, telling reporters at a news conference that she was less concerned about the medical device tax repeal than about locking in the sequester for six months when Democrats have already, begrudgingly, agreed to support a continuing resolution at the sequester level for a shorter length of time.
In private, according to multiple members and aides familiar with the situation, Pelosi slammed the proposal with much stronger rhetoric as sending the wrong message about what Democrats were willing to do to stop the government shutdown.
The tone and tenor of her comments may have had a chilling effect on Democrats' willingness to sign onto the effort, sources said, with an aide to one moderate Democrat saying that it took off the table a platform for frontliners to take a stand against the shutdown in a constructive way.
"It was a terrible, terrible, terrible deal," one that wasn't likely to have gone anywhere, anyway, said another Democratic aide.
He added, though, that "whether or not you think what Kind did was helpful, publicly shaming moderates isn't the way to build unity."
CQ Roll Call first reported on Oct. 12 that Pelosi might have strongly disparaged the Kind-Dent plan at a whip meeting, with a Democratic leadership aide downplaying the tension.
On Monday, a Democratic aide familiar with what went on inside that meeting said that Pelosi was not speaking directly to Kind — he was not in the room at that point — nor did she mention any Democrats by name.
She made her opposition clear but didn't issue any threats, he said. In fact, many Democrats who had at one point supported the proposal backed away due not to Pelosi's remarks but instead upon learning that the CR would actually run for six months, not six weeks.
Kind, in a statement to CQ Roll Call, said he was still committed to moving forward.
"We need to walk before we run in order to build trust. These bipartisan discussions help us do just that," Kind said. "Most Americans recognize that our political system is broken and it needs to be fixed. This group of Republicans and Democrats is coming together to see if we can find a way to break the stalemate and give the American people a government that functions.
"We're not here to assign blame," Kind continued, "we're here to start a dialogue that will lead to a clear course of action. We have to have the ability for members to get together and find common ground."
It's not clear that Republicans have support for this plan from their leadership, either.
On Oct. 12, Dent told CQ Roll Call that about 20 Republicans have endorsed the plan, but only eight of those members have revealed themselves: Rep. Chris Gibson of New York, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, New Jersey Reps. Jon Runyan and Leonard Lance, and Pennsylvania Reps. Lou Barletta, Jim Gerlach, Patrick Meehan and Michael G. Fitzpatrick.
In a sign of possible anxiety over crossing GOP leaders, some of the Congressional offices contacted to sign onto the Dent-Kind proposal report that they weren't permitted to see who else had lent their signatures, and the full list of co-signers has not yet been released.
Dent also acknowledged it wasn't a done deal with Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.
"I have presented this to Speaker Boehner, he's aware of it," Dent said. "I don't believe it's something he's prepared to bring up at this time. He did not dismiss it outright, but I don't believe he was prepared to support it."