Aides: Progress on "fiscal cliff" talks maddeningly slow

(CBS News) Democrats and Republicans have seemingly agreed on at least one thing in the ongoing "fiscal cliff" talks -- say little about the details. While the atmosphere around the talks is positive, concrete progress is maddeningly slow, CBS News' Major Garrett reported.

President Obama telephoned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Monday while his top Capitol Hill Lieutenant, Rob Nabors, huddled for the second day in a row with senior staff to House Speaker John Boehner. And for a second day in a row, there is no discernible progress toward breaking the fiscal cliff stalemate.

President Obama left that Washington drama behind and warned supporters in suburban Detroit the fiscal cliff is serious business.

"If Congress doesn't act soon, meaning in the next few weeks, starting on January 1st everybody's going to see their incomes taxes go up," Obama told the the crowd. 

Boehner and House Republicans want to preserve all of the Bush-era tax rates to expire at year's end, shielding everyone from a tax increase. Obama wants them to rise for households earning more than $250,000 and has so far resisted GOP demands for spending cuts for health care or education.

"I'm not going to have a situation where the wealthiest among us, including folks like me, get to keep all our tax breaks, and then we're asking students to pay higher student loans," the president said.

Even so, Democrats worry Mr. Obama might cave to Republicans. Their biggest fear: the president will do what he considered in 2011 when he agreed to raise the eligibility age for Medicare. A top House Democrat Monday warned the White House to tread lightly.

"Now that would save a lot of money for the federal government and look good on the balance sheet and all the rest but...I'm not going to vote for it, and a whole lot of other people aren't going to vote for it," said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.

Because of the workload and difficulty of the negotiations, lawmakers were warned today to make no holiday travel plans.

CBS News' political director, John Dickerson, said one of the many challenges with "fiscal cliff" talks is "finding some way to get conservative Republicans to vote with John Boehner."

"This is the reasons that all the details are in secret is because negotiators are kind of suggesting and hinting at ways they may bend and flex. The reason they never want any of those details to get public is that if one side is going to bend, they're going to expect the other side to bend, too," Dickerson said.

"Only until everybody gets their bending sort of aligned can they present them to their sides."