Just one week into the Congressional lame duck session, lawmakers are off again this week for the Thanksgiving holiday. Both parties are talking publicly about the possibility of compromise to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff at the end of the year. But the details have yet to be negotiated, despite efforts of a Virginia lawmaker working with colleagues through the fall on the issue. David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, gives us a look behind the scenes.
Hawkings on any noticeable difference in the mood on the Hill since the election: "There is some genuine sense of optimism from all sides that the so-called fiscal cliff, which people are optimistic enough that they are joking about the name fiscal cliff, and coming up with alternate names for it. But yes, there is a little more optimism. It's a little difficult to divorce that optimism from the sort of first day at school good feelings that swept through the Capitol last week when all of the newly elected members came to town. But behind the scenes... now that the Republicans are talking about revenue, and allowing some increases in taxes, just not tax rates, that's given the fiscal cliff talk some new life."
On what role the Gang of Eight will play moving forward: "The role of the Gang of Eight is to get out of the way this time. Their role... two years ago when it seemed as though the big official elected leadership -- the four leaders of Congress and the White House -- were going to reach and impasse, that was when the Gang of Six or Eight got to work, because they thought they could fill the breach that was being created by a leadership impasse. But there's enough excitement and enthusiasm and sense of optimism that Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Reid, Minority McConnell, Minority Leader Pelosi, and the President can reach a deal that the last thing the Gang of Eight wants to do is get in the way with a competing proposal."
On how likely it is that lawmakers will stick around until closer to New Year's: "That's the fear, yes. The fiscal cliff does not start crumbling until Jan. 2, so there is in theory an entire week between Christmas and New Year's when they could keep working if there is no deal. I think they will push like crazy to get it done by Friday, Dec. 21."