That leaves a lot of heavy lifting, Conrad concedes: “Is it perfect? No. Is it everything we’d hoped for? No. Does it match what Bowles-Simpson did? No.”
The general mood Sunday was well expressed by another senator about to retire, Joseph Lieberman.
"It's the first time that I feel it's more likely we'll go over the cliff than not," Senator Lieberman said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” "If we allow that to happen it will be the most colossal consequential act of congressional irresponsibility in a long time, maybe ever in American history because of the impact it'll have on almost every American.”
Joining Conrad on Fox News, Sen. Jon Barrasso (R) of Wyoming said tumbling off the fiscal cliff is inevitable.
“I believe the president is eager to go over the cliff for political purposes,” he said. “He senses a victory at the bottom of the cliff.”
Obama already has scaled back his ambitions for a sweeping budget bargain. Before leaving the capital on Friday, he called for a limited measure that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for most people and stave off federal spending cuts. The president also urged Congress to extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed that would otherwise be cut off for 2 million people at the end of the year.
But reverting to higher tax rates for even the wealthiest Americans remains a show-stopper for many tea party Republicans in the House of Representatives.