The Washington Times - November 28, 2012, 07:58AM

Erskine Bowles, the Democrat who ran President Obama’s Bowles-Simpson deficit commission two years ago and has become a leading voice for striking a deal now, said Wednesday he doesn’t think Congress and the White House are going to beat the Jan. 1 deadline.

“I believe the probability is we are going over the cliff,” he said, adding that he sees “at most it’s a one-third probability we’ll get something done before the end of the lame-duck” session of Congress.

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Mr. Bowles, who was chief of staff to President Clinton when he and a Republican Congress balanced the budget in the late 1990s, talked with Mr. Obama and his economic team on Tuesday and was preparing to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill later Wednesday. He said he sees good will but still no serious conversations about big entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare from the White House.

He and former Sen. Alan K. Simpson, a Republican and co-chairman of the deficit commission, talked to reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, saying that they aren’t sure when the real budget crisis would hit. But they warned there is no doubt it’s coming.

“The tipping point is real. It could be two years; it could be three months,” Mr. Simpson said.

Mr. Bowles said businesses already are adjusting their activities in anticipation of the federal government going over the “fiscal cliff.” While they haven’t started firing people, they have halted hiring for positions that come open, and are retrenching.