WASHINGTON — In spite of outstanding disagreements in talks to avert the looming "fiscal cliff," cautious optimism has begun to seep into congressional lawmakers' discourse.
“I think it’s better than 50% that we get an agreement before Jan. 1," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, said at a panel discussion Tuesday morning hosted by Bloomberg Government.
Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican, agreed, but added that disagreements over the debt ceiling could be “the line in the sand” between success and failure in the ongoing discussions.
Last week, House Speaker John Boehner insisted that negotiations to ward off the threat of an austerity crisis had reached a "stalemate." But this week, since Republicans submitted an offer to counter that proposed by President Barack Obama, the political class has expressed tacit hope that talks are once again progressing encouragingly.
When asked about a scenario in which Congress lets the "fiscal cliff" deadline pass, Corker did not even entertain the hypothetical.
"I just don't see this going past the end of the year," he countered.
"The decisions we have to make are not intellectually demanding," Corker added later. "They just take political courage."