For a member of Congress, there’s nothing like a trip to the White House — except, perhaps, another trip to the White House. And another. Eventually, it starts to look a lot like the holidays: You look forward to them, but deep down you hope things will be a little better than last year. Much of the experience boils down to repetition — that’s how traditions are made, after all. And like any tradition — visiting certain relatives, attending the same Christmas parties, or listening to the president carry on — it can start to wear you down after awhile.
As Capitol Hill’s would-be dealmakers try to avoid a Thelma and Louise moment over the fiscal cliff, that’s where things sit right now. They have made a pilgrimage to the White House, produced cautiously worded public statements, and over the next few weeks they can look forward to the prospect of doing it all again and again. They all want to succeed. But that will require much more than a few picturesque moments at a conference table.