Bowles and Simpson Predict Congress Goes Over the Fiscal Cliff

Despite lawmakers trying to reach a deal, the two don't see a deal being made before Jan. 1.

Erksine Bowles and Alan Simpson at a breakfast with reporters Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012.

Erksine Bowles and Alan Simpson at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor on Wednesday.

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If Alan Simpson and Erksine Bowles were betting men, they wouldn't put their money on Congress coming to a deal before the nation goes over the fiscal cliff.

"I believe the probability is that we are going over the cliff," Bowles said during a breakfast with reporters Wednesday. "I'd give it a one-third possibility we will actually get something done before Dec. 31."

[Related: What You Need to Know About the Bowles-Simpson Deficit Plan]

Simpson and Bowles, who co-chaired President Barack Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010, know how to broker a deal, but say its painful for both sides to have to give a lot. Republicans have to be willing to generate revenue through taxes and cut defense spending while Democrats have to slash entitlements like Medicaid and Social Security.

Bowles says Congress got off to a late start and neither side has signaled a drastic enough move to the middle to indicate any kind of grand bargain is on the horizon.

"These guys are going to be in town 10 more legislative days. If this was any business or any family, and they had a problem as big of this, they would have been working on this all together for the last year," Bowles says.

Simpson, a Republican who served 18 years in the Senate, adds there is not enough political incentive or cover for members who stick their necks out to compromise.

"They get savaged," Simpson says, remembering how Illinois Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin and Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn were received by their parties after compromising on a debt-reduction plan in 2010.

Simpson adds it's one of the reasons the institution is failing to put country first.

"If you go to a legislative body and you cannot compromise, you shouldn't be there," Simpson says. "And you really shouldn't be married."

Communication and compromise seems to be in short supply in Washington. Nothing substantive has come out of the negotiations between the White House and Congress. House Speaker John Boehner hasn't talked with President Obama on the phone since Saturday, and the two haven't met for 10 days.

Obama's taking his fiscal cliff pitch on the road while Republican leaders wish he'd take it down Pennsylvania Avenue straight to Capitol Hill.

[More: Obama to Appeal to Public on Fiscal Cliff]

Senate Minority Leader, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, called on the president to negotiate with Congress, not stage a series of campaign events.

"Rather than sitting down with lawmakers of both parties and working out an agreement, he's back on the campaign trail, presumably with the same old talking points that we're all quite familiar with," McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Obama is expected to tout his plan to extend Bush-era tax cuts for middle-income families and raise taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year.

Republicans have planned their own slew of public relations events this week with business leaders and CEOs, planning to highlight how tax increases for small business owners could hurt the economy.

Meanwhile, Republican and Democratic leaders alike are throwing out plans on how to negotiate a so-called "grand bargain" without much comment from the White House.

Durbin, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat, begged members of his party to "put everything on the table" Tuesday during an event at Center for American Progress. Durbin qualified that "everything" meant entitlement reforms dealing with Social Security and Medicare should not be part of fiscal cliff negotiations, but should be dealt with a separate round of talks in the future. Durbin added he'd be unwilling to put healthcare reform back on the table as a bargaining chip, as some Republicans had suggested.

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Republican Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, meanwhile, announced his own blueprint for reducing the deficit and finding common ground to avoid the fiscal cliff. The plan would cap tax deductions to generate nearly $750 billion in new revenue, trim $4.5 trillion over a decade by curbing the inflation adjustment rate for social security, and raise the Social Security eligibility age to 68. So far, Corker hasn't seen any Democratic takers, but staffers say it's a plan with specifics and a step in the right direction. In the end though, Simpson and Bowles say its leadership that will make the final decision. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters this week that he's seen little substantive discussion.