On "CBS This Morning," National Journal correspondent Major Garrett likened the work being done to Thanksgiving cooking. He said the staff are preparing the recipes: "All the things you can cut, all the things you can tax. How do they add up in various different ways to put together a meal."
The cooks -- the lawmakers -- will decide the final menu once they return to Washington next week, he said.
Garrett said "everyone is exploring every option," including breaking up the issue massive cliff into two parts. The first part would be to immediately deal with the tax increases set to go into effect at the beginning of the year and the second part would be resolved after the New Year and would address the automatic spending cuts.
He added, however, that Congress could choose to address both issues at once as the legislative body often see incentive to act when a crucial deadline approaches.
"You'll never get more attentiveness, more public hysteria, than you'll get in December," he said, noting that the fiscal cliff would happen at the end of the year. "Now's the time to capitalize on it," he said some in Washington believe.
Members of the business community are contacting the White House with their concerns and labor and progressive groups are urging the president to avoid alterations to entitlements. Garrett noted that the president and the lawmakers who vote are going to have to determine the shape and scope of a deal.
"What it's going to require is what it's always required, people willing to take tough votes, to look at each other and to trust each other," Garrett said.