With the temporary extension of the payroll tax holiday, long-term unemployment benefits, and the so-called Medicare "Doc Fix" all due to run out at the end of the month, congressional negotiators admit their time is running short.
"I think the next step forward is the unemployment insurance proposal," said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., who is one of the negotiators.
But Republican leaders say Democrats have made the calculation that it is more important to score political points than reach a solution -- as Democrats reject GOP offers of how to pay for an extension that would run through the end of the year. Many Democrats favor a millionaire surtax, while Republicans have called that a nonstarter.
"What's pretty clear is that Senate Democrats have never come to the table with a plan to offset this new spending that they're all for," said a clearly frustrated House Speaker John Boehner.
"Every bipartisan discussion we get in with our friends on the other side seems to be designed not to get an outcome," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid suggested the Republicans are too narrowly focused on how they'd be willing to offset the cost of the extensions. "We know there's gonna have to be mandatory cuts, we understand that but also going to have to be something done with tax incentives, enhancements, revenues," Reid told reporters.
The scene is starting to resemble the drama that filled the Capitol in the days before Christmas, when a two-month extension was passed to avoid taxes going up on more than 160 million Americans.