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Negotiation? Nah--more like 'a slow-motion car crash'

Negotiations in Washington, D.C.

Negotiations in Washington, D.C. remain at a standstill as the country nears the edge of the fiscal cliff, but Bloomberg View's Josh Green and the National Journal's Chris Frates told Chris Matthews Thursday that both Democrats and Republicans were playing angles for their own political gains and futures.

"At this point, both parties basically want to go over the cliff for different reasons," Green said of the looming deadline. However, it is the Republican Party, he said, that stands to lose the most as House members look ahead to the next primaries.

"I think Republicans at this point fear casting a career-threatening vote to raise taxes instead of waiting four days, letting the cliff do the work for them, and then stretching a deal. Then, technically, they'd be voting for a tax cut," Green said.

He added that the GOP was hesitant to move farther right after their losses in 2012. "Politicians are creatures of narrow self-interest, and from the self-interest standpoint of a Republican House member from a safe district who fears a primary challenge—yes, it's better for them to wait three days, go over the cliff, cast a vote to cut taxes and basically screw all the people who are going to be affected by it, preserve their own jobs than it is to agree to a tax increase now and risk the wrath of a Tea Party right two years from now."

Frates echoed Green's thoughts, noting that the far right was less concerned with general voters than they were worried about the immediacy of a primary threat from the right. "They're betting they'll be, after January 1, voting for a tax decrease and not voting to raise taxes on anybody, and that's really easy to explain in a bumper sticker."

Frates added that, with the House out of session until this coming weekend, the Senate is being pressured to put a deal on the floor—one that would most likely not gain approval from Republicans and lead to Senate Democrats having to pull their own proposal.

"Democrats are weary of falling into this trap that Republicans they feel are trying to set for them, and so there's this kind of staring contest up here where everybody's looking at everybody, and it's like watching a slow-motion car crash," Frates said.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid openly accused House Speaker John Boehner of caring more about his own re-election than getting work done, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans were not ready to make a deal with Democrats about "just anything" simply because "we find ourselves at the edge of the cliff."