Despite the absence of a deal yet to avert the "fiscal cliff," congressional leaders-turned-lobbyists on Thursday said Congress and the White House would hash out an agreement to avoid the mix of mandated tax increases and spending cuts set to go into effect at the start of 2013.
Speaking at the 2012 National Law Journal Regulatory Summit in Washington, former senators John Breaux (D-La.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), now Patton Boggs senior counsels; former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), a Dickstein Shapiro senior adviser; former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), Gephardt Government Affairs president and CEO; and former Representative Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), an Alston & Bird senior counsel, said they expect a short-term deal followed by more talks.
Hastert said he anticipates that the White House and Congress will reach some sort of agreement by the Sunday before Christmas.
Failure to reach a deal would be "total capitulation," Breaux said.
"I think that if they did go over the fiscal cliff it would really be an admission by the entire Congress that they're incapable of governing," Breaux said.
Since the election, President Barack Obama and Republicans led by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) have entered into a stalemate over the fiscal cliff, with the White House insisting on increasing the tax rates for the wealthiest 2 percent of taxpayers and the GOP pushing for changes to entitlements.
Amid the impasse, Obama and Boehner have hit the campaign trail again, hosting events and making frequent public appearances to discuss the fiscal cliff.
"They just need to quit campaigning and making statements and sit down at a round table…and make a deal," said Lott, a former Senate Majority Leader.
Gephardt said major budget reduction votes are "the hardest votes" in Congress. "Nobody, and I mean nobody in the Congress at the end of the day really wants to vote for any of this stuff," he said. "It's all political poison."
Pomeroy said Boehner is the player to watch as he tries to find a path forward with his fellow Republicans.
"He has got one whale of a situation on his hands," Pomeroy said.