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In final hours, breakthroughs, compromises, and convictions held

From NBC's Mike Viquiera
After the final passage of the budget compromise to keep the government open, senior administration officials briefed reporters on the frenzied final two days of the negotiations between Democrats and Republicans.

The officials said that, at the conclusion of Thursday night's meeting between the principles -- President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner, and VIce President Joe Biden -- Biden laid down the bottom line on the key sticking point of Title X funding.

If the GOP was going to insist on including the 'rider,' "then we are just going to have to take it to the American people," Biden said, according to White House officials. In other words, Biden and Obama were willing to see the government shut down before they allowed funding for Title X organizations -- like Planned Parenthood -- to be cut.

But that meeting also saw another breakthrough when the GOP agreed to the composition of the cuts, acceding to the White House view that changes in mandatory spending should be included (ie. non-discretionary funding like farm subsidies and some justice programs) and counted toward the total dollars slashed.

When that meeting ended, officials said, White House aides then went to the Hill, where they were surprised to find that GOP staff was not following what Democrats thought had just been agreed to by the speaker. Republican negotiators at the staff level were insisting on a higher number and more riders.

Late Friday morning, Obama called Boehner and said, per aides, "Look, I'm the president and you're the speaker." Acknowledging the respect that both had for their staffs, he added that the agreement between the two men alone must stand.

Negotiations resumed among aides at 11am ET Friday. Offer after counteroffer were proposed as negotiators went "a couple more rounds" before they arrived at the result we saw shortly before midnight last night.

There were four calls between the president and Boehner Friday, as well as several calls to Reid.

Administration officials also highlighted the president's goals and desire for compromise, saying that Obama was firm in his belief that education, infrastructure, and R&D spending be preserved but flexible on many other aspects of the budget.

"Not every dollar cut is a victory for them and not every dollar spent is a victory for us," one official said.

For their part, GOP leadership aides have emphasized how the proposed cuts became deeper over time. First, GOP aides said, the White House and Democrats said they would go $4 billion in cuts, and then another $6 billion. During further negotiations, the Democrats offered $21 billion in cuts, $30 billion, and then $33 billion.

Then, the White House and Democrats insisted that all sides had agreed to a $33 billion figure and, according to GOP sources, tried to force Boehner to accept it. He never did, and publicly insisted that there was no agreement on a number or anything else.

In the end, Republicans point out, Boehner got about 63 percent of the $61 billion in proposed cuts that the House GOP backed earlier this year.