Secretive spending talks continue

Secretive talks between Senate Democrats and House Republicans over spending cuts continued Tuesday night in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) office.

But even as the two sides look to avoid a government shutdown, they offered sharply different takes on where the negotiations stand.

A Democratic aide said staff from House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office came over to the Senate side and examined Reid's latest proposal Tuesday night. 

But a GOP aide disputed that account and said staff has yet to see the spending proposal from Democrats. 

Reid on Tuesday called on the GOP to entertain a new Democratic offer to cut an additional $20 billion from the 2011 budget.

By Reid's math, that proposal is $70 billion less in spending than President Obama had originally requested in February 2010, and $6 billion short of the cuts House leaders called for, before demanding $25 billion more at the behest of Tea Party freshmen.

“Sitting on Sen. Reid’s desk right now is a serious proposal that cuts $70 billion in government spending while protecting America’s economic recovery. If Republicans are truly interested in forging a bipartisan agreement that avoids a government shutdown, they should come back to the negotiating table and look at what’s in the proposal,” Reid spokesman Jon Summers aid late Tuesday.

The GOP insists it has not signed onto anything the Democrats are proposing and is demanding that some of the policy riders the House backed last month be included in a final deal. 

Reid claimed in a floor speech Wednesday that Boehner had returned to the negotiating table.

"Much of the criticism in this process has come from people who aren’t even sitting at the negotiating table. But I am. And so is Speaker Boehner. I’m glad he’s returned to the conversation," Reid said. 

A House GOP aide disputed Reid's statement and said the spending talks were never suspended.

On Tuesday, language defunding the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gases appeared to emerge as a more likely rider to be included, given stronger opposition in the Senate to defunding Planned Parenthood or the Obama healthcare reform law. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has since said flatly that the rider will not fly. 

- This artice was updated at 12:46.