The Republican whip, Kevin McCarthy, indicated that the two sides are "not close" and are just getting started.
At this rate, a deal will get done just in time for the Labor Day recess next year.
"There's nothing agreed to. They are just beginning to talk," he said of House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said on MSNBC Monday he thought Congress could resolve some of the issues by the December 31 deadline -- among them the hikes in tax rates-but might have to leave others for the new Congress that takes office in January.
The two major elements of the so-called cliff are automatic spending reductions set to occur starting January 1 and tax cuts that expire at the end of the year. Democrats, including Obama, want the reduced taxes extended for all but the highest earners, while Republicans want them continued for all brackets.
Also in the mix is a payroll tax "holiday" set to expire, which, if not extended, will could quickly reduce the take-home pay of a large segment of the U.S. workforce.
The holiday, now in its second year, has been providing workers with an average of about $1,000 a year in extra cash. Significant divisions remain on the payroll tax question in part because it funds the Social Security retirement program.
The payroll tax, dedicated to financing Social Security, is paid by employers and employees at a rate of 6.2 percent of wages up to a maximum of $110,110. The holiday, enacted in 2010, reduced the rate by 2 percentage points on the portion paid by the worker.
Van Hollen said Republicans were coming around on the tax hikes, and said there was a good chance of resolving that soon.
Other things might have to wait, he said, mentioning the budget cuts, or "sequestration," and the payroll tax.
Glad to see the GOP is "coming around" to caving in. For a minute there, I thought they had grown a pair.
There is absolutely no way any "meaningful" entitlement reform can come in 3 weeks. What will happen is that Obama and the Democrats will solemnly swear that they will sit down and discuss entitlements sometime next year.
And I've got a bridge over the Chicago River that I can let youi have for a song.