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GOP, Dem huddles fail to yield progress on budget deal

After both sides huddled behind closed doors Friday afternoon, the message from both Senate Democrats and House Republicans remained clear.

They’re still stuck.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, flanked by all Senate Democrats, emerged from a closed-door meeting with his caucus to press House Speaker John Boehner to sell his conservative members on a deal that would avert a government shutdown.

If Boehner and his caucus fail to agree to a compromise that can pass both chambers of Congress before midnight tonight, Reid said, “it will be crystal clear to the American people that Democrats are reasonable and Republicans are responsible for shutting down the government.”

Reid accuses House negotiators of “backing off” a base number for cuts that was agreed to in a White House meeting late last night. That deal would have kept discretionary spending cuts at $73 billion and then added additional reductions in mandatory and Pentagon spending, he said.

Now, Democrats maintain that Republicans are holding up an agreement because of their insistence on pulling federal funding for family planning and women’s health organizations that also provide abortions.

“They can keep their word to cut the deficit or they can shutdown America’s government over women’s access to health care,” Reid said of House Republicans. “If that sounds ridiculous it’s because it is ridiculous.”

But Boehner announced after meeting with his members that “almost all” of the policy issues that have been thwarting a deal have been resolved, reiterating that the depth of spending cuts remains the sticking point in his negotiations with Democrats.

"We're not going to roll over and sell out the American people like it's been done time and again in Washington," Boehner said. "We're damn serious about it."

Tempers are clearly flaring in the negotiations as time ticks closer to tonight’s midnight funding deadline.

Asked today about his earlier statement that the vice president became visibly upset during last night’s talks, Reid responded “Joe Biden wasn't flustered, he was damn mad.”