As for the broader talks, it appeared progress had been made both on spending cuts demanded by Republicans and on a series of unrelated provisions they attached to legislation that was approved almost six weeks ago.
A House-passed measure called for $61 billion in cuts, and until recently, the two sides had been working on a framework for $33 billion. Boehner pronounced that insufficient on Tuesday, and floated a $40 billion figure instead.
Democrats disputed any suggestion that they had acceded to that, but some, speaking privately, conceded they were willing to go higher than $33 billion, based on the make-up of the cuts included.
"I think we've made some progress. But we're not finished, not by a long shot," Boehner told reporters after a closed-door meeting with the Republican rank and file, the second of the week he has called as he maneuvers his way through the first significant test for a rambunctious new majority determined to cut spending.
Reid offered no details in an early morning speech that jabbed Boehner.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, second-ranking in the Democratic leadership structure, hinted at movement in the talks. "There's been a direct negotiation — things put on the table that had not been discussed before — and I think we're moving" toward' agreement.
Apart from the spending cuts, Republicans are demanding Democrats and the White House accept at least some of the conservative policy provisions included in the earlier legislation.
Democrats have already ruled out agreeing to stop funding the year-old health care overhaul or to deny Planned Parenthood all federal money. And Reid has said he will not agree to any of the curbs Republicans want to place on the Environmental Protection Agency.
While the political wheels turned, hundreds of demonstrators rallied outside the Capitol calling for budget cuts and a shutdown if necessary to get them.
Shut the sucker down," one yelled, and the crowd repeatedly chanted, "Shut it down."
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