Silence on "fiscal cliff" could be a good sign

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have been keeping a tight lid on the specifics of their conversations regarding the "fiscal cliff." CBS News has learned some of the details of those talks. And, as Major Garret reports, their most recent exchanges have been "gentle" and "substantive."

(CBS News) WASHINGTON, D.C. - It seems the closer we get to the "fiscal cliff," the less anyone In Washington is saying about it, and that could be a good sign. The president and the Speaker of the House are negotiating in earnest, not in public, for a change.

"Fiscal cliff" is the name given to the end-of-the-year tax increases for most Americans and big cuts in federal spending. There are just 13 days left to find a solution before the traditional congressional holiday.

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met at the White House this weekend alone, one-on-one, for the first time in about 18 months. The formal deadline for a deal on the "fiscal cliff" is just 22 days away, but there are a lot of people around here who are hoping it will happen even sooner.

If lawmakers want to settle this in time for Christmas, negotiations have to kick into high gear this week, and the president and Speaker Boehner must reach an agreement by early next week at the latest.

That's the only way members will have enough time to read it, debate it, and vote on it in the House and Senate before heading home for the holidays.

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In a now-familiar routine, both sides blamed each other today for the slow pace of talks.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid: "Right now, Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader (Mitch) McConnell are the only thing standing between Congress and compromise."

A spokesman for Speaker Boehner said in a statement: "The Republican offer made last week remains the Republican offer, and we continue to wait for the president to identify the spending cuts he's willing to make as part of the 'balanced' approach he promised the American people."

The White House and Speaker Boehner's office haven't revealed a single detail about the meeting on Sunday, and the members CBS News have spoken to are taking that as a good sign that the talks are getting serious and substantive, just in time.

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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.