WASHINGTON — With anxiety rising as the country lurches towards a "fiscal cliff," lawmakers are increasingly skeptical about a possible deal and some predict the best possibility would be a small-scale patch because time is running out before the yearend deadline.
Sen. Joe Lieberman predicted Sunday: "We're going to spend New Year's Eve here, I believe."
Even those who see the possibility of a deal don't expect a lot.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said she expects "it is going to be a patch because in four days we can't solve everything."
With the collapse Thursday of House Speaker John Boehner's plan to allow tax rates to rise on million-dollar-plus incomes, Lieberman said: "It's the first time that I feel it's more likely we'll go over the cliff than not," meaning that higher taxes for most Americans and painful federal agency budget cuts would be in line to go ahead.
"If we allow that to happen it will be the most colossal consequential act of congressional irresponsibility in a long time, maybe ever in American history because of the impact it'll have on almost every American," said Lieberman, a Connecticut independent.
Wyoming Sen. Jon Barrasso, a member of the GOP leadership, predicted the new year would come without an agreement, and he faulted the White House.
"I believe the president is eager to go over the cliff for political purposes. He senses a victory at the bottom of the cliff," he said.
Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, was incredulous at Barrasso's assertion that 'there is only one person that can provide the leadership" on such a matter vital to the nation's interests.