Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants the District of Columbia to know he's not looking to make things hard for the heavily Democratic city during the government shutdown.
So on Wednesday, he told its mayor not to "screw" things up. The impromptu exchange was captured by TV cameras.
The D.C. local government is often caught up as collateral damage when the federal government shuts down, a constant source of frustration for city officials.
On Wednesday, Mayor Vincent C. Gray sidled up to the Nevada Democrat — who was holding news conference with Senate Democrats — after his own presser on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Reid told the mayor, "I'm on your side, don't screw it up," according to multiple Twitter messages from reporters on the scene.
Thus far, the District has continued operating through the use of contingency reserve funds, but Mr. Gray noted that those funds are dwindling and could have effects on the city's transportation infrastructure, its utilities and its schools.
The mayor on Tuesday demanded a meeting with President Obama and congressional leaders about the shutdown, saying the political standoff is having "dire consequences" for the city.
"I spoke to the extent that I could to the a majority leader," Mr. Gray said Wednesday. "That obviously was a press conference that they had planned. They didn't even know that we would be here and vice versa."
Senate Democrats have resisted efforts to open the government back up in a piecemeal fashion. Instead, they've demanded that House Republicans pass "clean" measures to fund the government and raise the federal government debt limit before broader negotiations commence.
• Staff writers Jacqueline Klimas and Andrea Noble contributed to this report.
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