It appears that it is the last group, working with Democrats and the White House, that will prevail. Under the most likely scenario, Republicans will get nothing — nothing — in return for giving in on tax rates for the highest-income Americans. No spending cuts, at least no serious spending cuts, would be part of the deal done on Sunday or Monday, if that is indeed what happens.
Instead, Republicans will tout their accomplishment in making nearly all of the Bush tax cuts permanent. Those cuts were always temporary, first in a ten-year form that expired in 2011, and then with a two-year extension. Now, in a fiscal cliff deal, they would be permanent for those who make less than $500,000 a year. Or at least as permanent as any tax rate can be; rates can always be changed by Congress, at any time.
As for spending cuts, particularly in entitlements, some Senate Republicans say they will press for those in January or February, during the coming battle over raising the nation’s debt ceiling. They believe that fight will give them leverage to extract real concessions from the White House and Democrats on spending. It’s not entirely clear why they believe that so strongly; Republicans will certainly take a beating in the press if they appear ready to push the nation toward default to win unpopular cuts.