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Though Congress and the White House are stalled over a deal on deficit reduction, some lawmakers on Sunday tried to take the high road in budget deliberations, and other issues, offering honey instead of vinegar to position the debate.
Take Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He has vague but strong demands on getting his vote to raise the budget ceiling. But after two weeks of talks with Vice President Biden and a trot up Pennsylvania Avenue last week to meet with President Obama, McConnell is optimistically saying a deal can get done because both sides want it.
"You know, it is interesting that some of our biggest accomplishments in the last quarter of a century have been when you have divided government. Think of Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill working together to save Social Security for another generation in 1983. Think of Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress balancing the budgets and passing welfare reform. This is actually a great opportunity to address this burgeoning problem," he said on CNN Sunday.
House Speaker John Boehner also briefly offered an olive branch in an interview aired Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"I'm ready to cut a deal today," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "I've said, 'Mr. President, come on, you and I, let's lock arms and we'll jump out of the boat together.' I'm serious about dealing with this. And I hope he's just as serious."
On "Fox News Sunday," the talk was so cooperative that host Chris Wallace dubbed the conversation "television diplomacy." On several topics, Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, warmly agreed to meet and share ideas on everything from Medicare and tax reform to border security.
"I just listened very carefully to what Jon Kyl said. And I believe he has set the stage for us to enter into a meaningful conversation," Durbin said after Kyl announced he won't agree to raising taxes, but would consider eliminating loopholes in the business tax code that complicate calculating the bottom line.
"Democrats are prepared to talk about the future of major entitlement programs, reform that is not going to deny the basic protections, which we put in the programs, but acknowledges the fact that we have serious economic problems ahead of us if we don't have some reform in both Medicare and Social Security," Durbin said.
So what's in the air? Perhaps the inevitable, but possibly nothing at all.
Most in Washington agree that the U.S. can't default on its debt, which is already bumping up against $14.3 trillion, the ceiling for borrowing. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has done some creative accounting in order to stave off default until mid-summer, but without a congressionally mandated hike the country will miss its loan payback deadline and lose its credit rating.
No official in a key position thinks that could or would happen. So now it's merely a matter of chilling out and getting down to business.
"Gentlemen, if you excuse me, I think maybe there's a little too much testosterone in this debate,outgoing FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair said on ABC's "This Week," noting that Americans likely settle on any outcome as long as "the pain is evenly distributed."
"It's too much about winning and losing and not enough of both sides are right, let's come together and have a solution," Bair added.
"Everybody believes that we are running out of gas. We have been running on an empty tank fiscally for a decade now," Mort Zuckerman, publisher of the New York Daily News, said on "Fox News Sunday." "We have to address the problem, because sooner or later, it's going to blow up in our faces."
Ultimately, whatever the talk of cooperation, Democrats and Republicans are unyielding on their core principles. For Democrats, it's a matter of the government maintaining control of entitlement programs for the elderly and poor.
For Republicans, they insist on one thing -- for every dollar in debt the ceiling is raised, spending needs to be cut in equal measure.
"When we say we want at least as much spending cuts for debt limit increase and the president throws up a $2 trillion number, that's where you're getting the $2 trillion number. If he says let's do a trillion in spending increase, then we want at least a trillion in spending cuts," Ryan said on CNN.
But Ryan did offer some bipartisanship.
"Both parties messed this up. This is not a Republican-created problem or a Democrat-related problem. It's both parties and we've got to face up to that if we're going to get this situation under control," Ryan said.