Fiscal cliff talks set for Thursday

After several days of post-Thanksgiving rhetorical shadow boxing, there will finally be some closed door talks on the fiscal cliff between the White House and leaders in Congress.

Sort of.

Instead of the Big Four of Boehner, Pelosi, Reid and McConnell meeting with President Obama at the White House, the President is dispatching his Treasury Secretary and top legislative liaison to the Capitol.

Those two men though won’t sit down in one room with the Congressional leaders – instead they will meet separately with them, in a series of one-on-one meetings..

Not in one room, exchanging ideas, but individually.

That’s probably better than just standing at opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and lobbing verbal grenades at each other, especially since the clock keeps ticking and the calendar keeps getting closer and closer to the New Year.

The goal of each party has been pretty clear in recent days – Democrats are hammering on the GOP, arguing that Republicans need to accept higher taxes on top income earners.

“I am very open to a fair and balanced approach,” the President said to his Cabinet on Wednesday, using both the Fox News slogan and his catch-phrase that means higher tax revenues must be part of any deal.

“I’m glad to see more and more Republicans in the Congress seem to be agreeing,” the President told another White House event, all part of a big public relations effort by the White House this week on the fiscal cliff.

Up on Capitol Hill, Republicans were trying to counter the Bully Pulpit of Mr. Obama, repeatedly framing their question to Democrats – “Where are your budget cuts?”

“We’ve had this spending crisis coming at us like a freight train,” said Speaker John Boehner in a morning news conference.

“And it has to be dealt with,” Boehner said flatly.

While Boehner was speaking, a symposium just happened to be going on over in one of the Senate office buildings on the 1990 budget deal between Democrats in Congress and the first President Bush, which really led to the anti-tax pledge of 1992 championed by Republicans like Grover Norquist.

Back then, Republicans like Newt Gingrich felt like the GOP got the short end of the stick – that they got tax increases, but just promises of budget cuts.

And many don’t want to repeat that in 2012.

“It’s time for the President and for Democrats to get serious about the spending problem that this country has,” Boehner added.

Boehner said he’s confident there will be a deal, even though there seems to be little evidence of any headway, with recent days filled mainly by political rhetoric on both sides.

Others though weren’t so sure.

“The chances are about one-third that we will get it done,” said Erskine Bowles, the Democrat who helped develop the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan that has been alternately embraced and shunned by both Congressional Republicans and President Obama.

Bowles says the other possibility is going over the cliff and fixing things in January, with a final one-third chance of a total breakdown.

Tick, tick, tick.