WASHINGTON — District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray has used a news conference held by Senate Democrats to make a personal appeal to Sen. Harry Reid to free the city's local funds from the federal budget battle.

In comments caught by a WRC-TV camera, Reid told the mayor, "I'm on your side. Don't screw it up."

Gray walked over to the Senate Democrats' news conference on the Capitol steps after telling reporters that Senate leaders and the White House are blocking efforts to allow the city to spend local tax dollars during the shutdown.

Democrats have rejected Republican efforts to fund the government on a piecemeal basis and haven't indicated they'll make an exception for the district.

Gray says he did not know what the majority leader's comment meant.