Democrats began to raise concerns privately that the White House appeared to be softening its iron-clad position.

“This is very disconcerting to us,” a senior Senate Democratic leadership aide said on condition of anonymity, referring to comments by the president’s top economic adviser, Gene Sperling, at POLITICO’S Playbook Breakfast on Monday. “All along, the president and White House have been firm on what they want, both in a [government funding bill] and debt ceiling. So we’re concerned about this.”

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, “What does short-term buy us? That buys us Thanksgiving in Washington.” …

The Democratic discord started Monday morning when Sperling said the White House would be open to a two- to three-week increase to avert the Oct. 17 deadline when the U.S. government may begin to default on its $16.7 trillion debt. The comments were a shift from the position the White House took in the 2011 debt fight, when it demanded that Congress extend the debt ceiling through the 2012 elections.