The Hill reports:

The White House and congressional Republicans edged closer to a spending-cut deal Wednesday as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) directed House Appropriations Committee staff to begin negotiations with their Senate-side counterparts.

The move suggests the two sides have agreed on a top-line number, as the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), has said consistently he would not initiate talks unless a figure had been settled on.

However, Republicans deny this is the case. Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) told me: “There have been discussion for weeks, and those discussions are continuing. There’s no agreement, and nothing will be agreed to until everything is agreed to.” A top adviser on the Senate side echoes that.

The real issue may not be the dollar amount. A senior adviser to a top Senate Republican tells me that the riders on funding of Planned Parenthood, the EPA and ObamaCare are the bigger stumbling blocks. He believes that “in the end” there will be an agreement, although he jokes, “there are so many ways to screw it up.”