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Analysis: D.C. Area Lawmakers Crucial To Fiscal Cliff Discussion

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Lawmakers return to Capitol Hill this week for the final stretch of the lame duck session facing a lot of unfinished business including the fiscal cliff, a combination of budget cuts and tax increases set to go into effect in January. Several local lawmakers have played roles in the Congressional path to this point. David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, talks with WAMU's Morning Edition host Matt Bush about their roles moving forward. Here are some highlights: 

How Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D), who was on the Congressional super-committee charged with deficit reduction, factors in: "At the moment the president is negotiating only with the four top congressional leaders and some of their aides," Hawkings says. "The expectation though as these negotiations move on is that the circle will widen and Chris Van Hollen will certainly be in that second circle." 

On the time line: "They only have four weeks, as a practical matter, to come up with some sort of deal that will get them past the New Year, which is when the austerity crisis … is set to kick in," Hawkings says. "Really, the deadline is the weekend before Christmas."

The roles of Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor (R), the House majority leader, and Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer (D), the minority whip: "Cantor's senior staff is already part of the negotiating team for the House Republicans. Cantor was part of the negotiations before … at one point in the 2011 standoff, so he's obviously going to be a central player," Hawkings says. "[For both Cantor and Hoyer], it will be up to both of these men as the  deal gets closer, their jobs will put them in charge of essentially counting the votes of what kind of deal can be sold and get through the House on each side."

Whether Virginia Sen. Mark Warner's possible placement on the Senate Finance Committee will give him more power to influence the negotiations: "That's the committee that writes tax law as well as entitlement law, which would govern Medicare," says Hawkings. "So if there is a deal in principle in the next four weeks — which is what seems to be the likelihood, that they'll make a deal to avoid the cliff at the end of the year and then write the details in the new year — if Mark Warner gets on the Senate Finance Committee, he would have a seat at the table when the actual details of the law … on any promises on higher tax revenue or less spending on Medicare are worked out."

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