From BI Lately we've been closely following Eurasia Group analyst Sean West (find him here on Twitter) who has been "dovish" all along on the outcome of the talks. We asked him after today's festivities whether he is still optimistic, and he says he is, and that he puts the odds of a deal at "2-1."
The key development today, says West, is that Senate leadership has brought other Senators into the fold:
I'm looking for a deal to be announced overnight or in the morning. Leadership has now brought all their members into the loop so they will have ownership and little reason to complain about swift Senate action. The House is more of a wildcard but I bet if the White House and Senate get a deal, The House will pass it and stop the fiscal cliff before it starts.
Why does this matter?
The caucus briefings today were an opportunity for rank and file Senators to be brought into the process and understand what each side had put on the table. It's no longer a secret one on one negotiation; some members might have had qualms about fast tracking the product of a totally private negotiation. Now swift passage of any deal will be easier, at least in the Senate.
And fundamentally, both sides really want a deal now...