Supercommittee member Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Nov. 17, 2011.
Supercommittee member Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Nov. 17, 2011. Harry Hamburg/AP
Less than a week before the deadline for the congressional super committee to deliver its proposal for at least $1.2 trillion in federal spending cuts over a 10-year time-frame, the vibes from the panel's members remain far from positive.
Consider part of a conversation NPR's Melissa Block, co-host of All Things Considered had with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat and one of 12 lawmakers on the committee.
The six Democrats and six Republicans have apparently agreed that for the time being the partisans can't be in the same room with each other.
MELISSA: "Is there any plan for the 12 of you to actually be in the same room at the same time?"
VAN HOLLEN: "Well, the 12 of us have had a number of sessions of negotiations."
MELISSA: But not lately.
VAN HOLLEN: "Well, recently, what we've been doing is sort of engaging in shuttle diplomacy to see if there are ways to bridge the differences between the parties. And that's why it was disconcerting the other day, to hear the Republican co-chair say that they were no longer interested in trying to bridge the differences, that they were going to stick with their position and draw a line in the sand. Now, I hope that is changing."
MELISSA: "Is there a plan for the 12 of you to actually be in the same room around the same table at the same time?"
VAN HOLLEN: "Well, that will depend on whether and how negotiations go forward in the next couple of days."
Still, even though they Republicans and Democrats apparently can't tolerate each other enough to be in the same room, Van Hollen tried to sound a note of optimism.
VAN HOLLEN: "It ain't over till it's over and we're going to be working overtime to try and reach agreement."
That's a slender reed of hope, granted. But it seems to be all that is left.