Susan Davis, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON -- Erskine Bowles, the former co-chairman of President Obama's debt commission, is pessimistic that Washington will avoid going over the "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year.
"I think the probability is we're going over the cliff," Bowles told reporters at a Wednesday roundtable hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.
To do so would be "insane," Bowles said. However, he forecast only a one-third probability that Obama and a divided Congress can agree on a budget deal that raises revenues and cuts spending. "One without the other won't work," he said.
Bowles said he was discouraged by the slow pace of the negotiations, the ongoing differences between the two parties and a dwindling legislative calendar.
He attended a Tuesday meeting at the White House with Obama and business leaders. He said the president showed some flexibility in his insistence that tax rates on the wealthy revert back to Clinton-era rates."I didn't sense it, I heard it.
"The White House really believes at its core that revenue ought to come from the wealthy," Bowles said, but added that the president is open to GOP proposals that also include revenue sources from closing loopholes and capping deductions as long as rates are in the mix.
Bowles heads to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to meet with House Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to continue his efforts, along with former senator Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., to encourage Washington to cut a deal. Simpson, a retired three-term senator, chaired Obama's debt commission with Bowles.
"I'm for getting a deal done and getting it done today," he said. "I'm hopeful but, boy, I wouldn't put me down as optimistic."