It's an anxiety-filled waiting game for most in Congress, one likely to stretch well into the holidays.
President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner clearly hold most cards in the "fiscal-cliff" negotiations and they're playing them extremely close to the vest. So far, little can be gleaned on progress of the talks ahead of a Dec. 31 deadline.
"There's just not much to tell us," Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., said after a closed-door GOP meeting with Boehner.
Boehner told members to go home for Christmas — but return the next day.
"Why are we having all this subterfuge and this, that and the other thing?" asked House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. "Is there not an appreciation for the Jewish holidays? The Christmas holiday? Kwanzaa? All the other things that families come together around?"
Any eventual compromise will surely extract pain from both sides. And neither wants to be seen as caving first.
Yet polls show most Americans regardless of party want a deal to reduce the federal budget deficit — even if it means cutting Social Security and Medicare and raising some taxes.
If the economy goes over the cliff without a deal, taxes on nearly all wage-earners will jump dramatically, not just for the wealthy as Obama wants.
"The president still has not made an offer" palatable to Republicans, Boehner told reporters Thursday. He said Obama wanted to "slow walk our economy right up to the fiscal cliff."
Obama characterized the talks as "still a work in progress."
It all means Congress will likely have forced holiday time in Washington — with little for most to do.
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