Both Democrats and Republicans are doing lots of posturing and preening as the clock ticks down to the Dec. 31 fiscal cliff deadline, but Congressional insiders say at this stage, the game right now is all about hurry-up-and-wait.
Brad Dayspring, the former communications director for Rep. Eric Cantor. R-Va., and current director of Young Guns Action Network, cautions that we shouldn't expect to see any real work to get done until the week of December 10.
And most veteran Capitol Hill watchers we talk to don't expect to see a deal reached until right before Christmas. In fact, many others who are less optimistic expect to ring in the New Year in the Capitol. It shouldn't come as a shock. If there's one thing we know about Congress it's this: Nothing gets done until the very last minute.
Former Wyoming Republican Sen. Alan K. Simpson, who co-chaired a 2010 bi-partisan fiscal commission, predicted exactly that yesterday.
"They're going to react right down to the last point when there's going to be blood and hair and eyeballs all over the floor and they're going to come up with something," Simpson said in an interview on Tuesday MSNBC's "Hardball," "but let me tell you, if it's just kicking the can down the road, the can is now a 55 gallon drum filled with explosives. You can't play that game anymore."
As The New York Times' Jackie Calmes writes this morning, Simpson and his Democratic counterpart, Erskine Bowles, "have been on the road, sometimes solo but often together, perfecting a sort of Off Broadway show that has kept their panel's recommendations alive."
Today Bowles plans to meet privately with House Speaker John Boehner and key Republicans leaders on Capitol Hill.
An eleventh hour deal is nothing new in Washington. As The Hill's Russell Berman and Erik Wasson noted, "For the fourth consecutive year, a major Washington negotiation is on a collision course with Christmas"
"In 2009, the Senate stayed in session until the early morning of Christmas Eve to pass an initial version of the healthcare overhaul. The next year, Congress gave final approval to a lame-duck tax package on Dec. 16, and in 2011, House Republicans held out until Dec. 23 before approving -- by unanimous consent -- a two-month extension of a payroll tax cut."