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Bob's Blog: First act of fiscal cliff play

Maybe I'm just a cockeyed optimist but I think in the end lawmakers will avert sending the country over this fiscal cliff. I think it's most likely that in "the end" what they'll really agree to is just the beginning, a framework perhaps, of a deal with more work to be done next year.

But I do think they'll find a way to get past this fiscal cliff. I cannot believe we'd send people to Washington on either side who would allow the worst to actually happen - tax increases, draconian cuts, all of that.

We're right in the middle of a three-act play that we've seen before. In the first act, everyone says "Let's work together." Second act, both sides lay out their positions. We just saw that happen. Then act three is when they close the doors and both sides say to one another, "What do you need?" And then they make a deal.

Right now the only real one-on-one talks we know about are the President's phone call to Speaker Boehner. There will have to be a lot more of that, and that kind of one-on-one work amongst lots of different players.

Frankly I don't think anything that's being said right now is real. They're laying out their positions. But what they're offering are ideas they've gotten by only talking to the people on their side. They haven't begun to talk to one another. When they start doing that, we'll start seeing more and more of what a deal might look like.

Someone said to me this is a replay of what we had last year. Well it is. But then again, last year was a replay of what we had the year before. And going back - this is just the way these things work.

I think in the end they will find something to get us past this before the end of the year.

This is somewhat reflective of what our election showed: we are a deeply divided country. Neither side really got a mandate, and that makes things harder and messier.

I'll talk about this with one of the guys leading negotiations for the White House, Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner.

Then I'll talk to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. about it some more. He suggested a willingness to perhaps accept tax increases as part of an eventual deal. What did he mean by that? We'll also talk to him about the Benghazi consulate attack and whether he'd consider approving Amb. Susan Rice as Secretary of State after her handling of the attack.

I'll also talk to Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers, R-Mich., about the consulate attack, Amb. Rice, and the fiscal cliff negotiations.

We'll wrap it all up with an in-depth look at the fiscal cliff with some really smart people. Moody's Analytics Mark Zandi, Campaign to Fix the Debt's Maya MacGuineas, TIME Magazine's Rana Foroohar and CBS News Political Director John Dickerson join me for that panel.

It's a lot, but it's "Face the Nation." I hope you'll join me - check your local listings so you don't miss a minute.

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