In US 'fiscal cliff' maneuvers it's all about the holiday

Fiscal cliff

"There is just that required moment when something has to happen because you've run out of time," said Blunt. In the meantime, "there is a desire to maximize your negotiating position until you realize you don't have any room any more to negotiate. It almost invariably works that way."

With each day that goes by, as the Washington cliche goes, the "smell of the jet fumes" - meaning the airplanes that will carry members of Congress back to their home states for vacations or to foreign destinations on taxpayer dollars – gets stronger and stronger.

With December's onset bringing Christmas sharply into focus, the pace of fiscal cliff negotiations between Democrats and Republicans will pick up starting this week, according to lawmakers and their aides.

Technically, there is a Dec. 31 deadline for Obama and Congress to find a way to avoid hundreds of billions of dollars in tax increases and spending cuts that experts say would give Americans a hangover far worse than what any drunken New Year's Eve celebration could deliver. But for the 535 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, who need deadlines to force them to accomplish anything big, it is the threat of having to work through Christmas that is fueling the oncoming mad dash to a deal – or at least a deal to eventually get a deal.

While no formal negotiating sessions are on the schedule between Republicans and Democrats, expect the pace of work by staff members to pick up, along with the back-and-forth exchanges on television and in op-ed pages of the sort that got going last week.

Obama could move the ball - or not - on Monday, when he has an unrelated public appearance, or Tuesday, when he speaks to the National Governors Association, or Wednesday, at a meeting with the Business Roundtable, the Washington lobbying arm for CEOs.

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