Whether this is an attempt at shrewd negotiating or just plain ol’ flying by the seat of their pants, I don’t know that anyone was really convinced that a fiscal-cliff deal was going to get done before Christmas — but that doesn’t make this any more welcome. Roll Call reports:

Senate leaders warned Tuesday that time is running out to strike a deal on the fiscal cliff, with Majority Leader Harry Reid saying it would be “extremely difficult” for Congress to finish its work before Dec. 25.

“Until we hear something from Republicans, there’s nothing to draft,” the Nevada Democrat said. “It’s going to be extremely difficult to get it done before Christmas.”

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney rebuffed Speaker John A. Boehner’s call Wednesday for President Barack Obama to offer up specific new cuts to entitlement programs, suggesting that the GOP make specific suggestions first and again demanding that Republicans cave on raising tax rates for the wealthy.

Given the snail’s pace at which these ‘negotiations’ have been proceeding so far, not to mention the now-mirrored accusations of, “No, you name specifics!”, I’m not holding out hope for fiscal cliff-free Christmas festivities, and other Congressional leaders have already affirmed that the legislative branch is going to stick around until this gets done.

Although, perhaps, there is a tiny glimmer of hope? Maybe? Politico reports that the White House did indeed present Boehner with their second version of a fiscal-cliff proposal on Sunday (although, as evidenced by Boehner’s comments today, it apparently wasn’t that impressive and the White House is still “slow-walking” this thing), and the GOP has counter-offered again — but the details are still undisclosed:

House Republicans say they have sent President Barack Obama a fresh proposal that would “achieve tax and entitlement reform to solve our looming debt crisis and create more American jobs.” …

Obama sent House Republicans a counter offer to their original proposal Sunday that called for $1.4 trillion in new revenue but little movement on entitlement cuts, sources said.

But, I’m generally inclined to think that taking this thing down to the wire has been part of the plan all along — I’m betting we’ll be hearing a lot of rabble-rabble-rabble straight through ’til New Years.

Update: Or, then again…?