(USA Today) -- Some things never change: Negotiations in Washington always go down to the last minute.
So it is with the so-called "fiscal cliff," the series of tax hikes and budget cuts that take effect next year if the White House and Congress are unable to reach a debt reduction deal.
And next year is a little more than a week away.
With President Obama and Congress taking a Christmas break -- amid the stops and starts of recent weeks -- it looks like they will need every possible hour to avoid going over the cliff on Jan. 1.
"I told my colleagues they're just doing it to make sure that those of us who are retiring this year work every last day of our term," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., on CNN's State of the Union.
He added: "We're going to spend New Year's Eve here, I believe."
It wouldn't shock us.
With the year running out, more lawmakers question whether they agree on a big deal to reduce the nation's $16 trillion-plus debt, or a smaller one to get past the fiscal cliff.
"It is going to be a patch because in four days we can't solve everything," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.
Obama, meanwhile, may monitor events from Hawaii, where he is on vacation with his family.
If the government goes over the cliff on Jan. 1, Obama and Congress can also pass retroactive legislation to deal with the automatic tax hikes.
Any way it works, it adds up to a busy post-Christmas season for Obama and Congress -- in the latter case until Jan. 3, when a new Congress is sworn in.