With 24 days remaining to strike a deal, the two sides remain far apart. House Speaker John Boehner claimed Friday that President Obama’s offers are just “more of the same.” Democrats say Republicans have to give more on taxes before they can reach a serious agreement.

Given this divide, it may seem counterintuitive that lawmakers left themselves just two months to negotiate their way out of the crisis – the two months after Election Day and before the Jan 1 deadline.

But the reality is that lawmakers have been trying to strike this kind of a deal for years, and each time ended up pushing off the very toughest decisions to a future date. The current stand-off is the result of these incremental maneuvers and delayed decisions.