Rep. Chris Van Hollen at a rally in October. Van Hollen is part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers negotiating the nation's debt ceiling.
Negotiating hundreds of billions of dollars in budget cuts and potential changes to entitlements is a full time job. While talking to WAMU, Van Hollen was twice pulled aside by an aide to get updates on where Vice President Joe Biden was going to be for their meeting on raising the debt ceiling.
Van Hollen says the discussions this week will be even more sensitive than they were last week.
"We are now getting into more difficult issues," he says.
Among those difficult issues are potential changes to Medicare -- something Van Hollen's party has resisted. For their part, Republicans have put their line in the sand and are refusing to allow tax increases to be a negotiating point.
But after the Senate overwhelmingly voted to end subsidies for ethanol, Van Hollen is hoping the group can get a deal to end more tax expenditures, he says. But time is running short.
"We have set the end of this month as a goal for either reaching an agreement in principle or recognizing that we're not able to bridge our differences," he says.
On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said his party may look for a short term increase of the nation's debt ceiling, which could mean the spending debate will get punted once again.