Bill Clinton: Fiscal Cliff Deal Is Close, Public Offers 'Just A Kabuki Dance'

At a speaking engagement in Sacramento on Tuesday evening, Bill Clinton suggested Republicans and Democrats were closer to a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff than it may appear to the public.

"It's just a Kabuki dance," said the former president, according to the Sacramento Bee. "They're sort of like two dogs that meet each other over a piece of meat. They're sniffing each other out. They are moving toward a deal. That's what's going on."

Last week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner presented the White House's opening offer on a fiscal cliff deal to Republicans. It was reportedly met with laughter.

Then on Monday, House GOP leaders rolled out a counteroffer that includes an extension of all the Bush tax cuts, steep changes to Medicare and large cuts to mandatory and discretionary spending. The White House rejected it immediately, saying it did not meet "the test of balance."

But as HuffPost's Sam Stein and Sabrina Siddiqui reported earlier, both sides are sounding more optimistic behind the scenes:

The Republican offer provides negotiators with a framework to match the one presented by President Barack Obama's administration last week. And while the two presentations are dramatically different, negotiators can now begin trading bits and pieces in hopes of finding a resolution before the end of the year.

Time is running out. The two parties must come to an agreement by the end of the year to avoid tax increases and automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending.

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