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Obama-Boehner fiscal cliff meeting: Is silence golden?

10:11 AM, Dec 10, 2012   |    comments
U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and President Barack Obama(File photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON -- President Obama and John Boehner met Sunday at the White House, and aides are saying little about it.

That is probably good news for the fiscal cliff negotiations.

As the White House and Congress approach an end-of-the-year deadline, the near-silence from Obama and Boehner about their talks may well be a sign they are getting close to a new debt reduction deal -- though that is only the first step.

Whatever the president and Speaker of the House agree to, the Republican-run House and Democratic Senate must vote to approve it.

That may not easy politically, and will definitely take time. Both chambers must develop specific legislation and call members back to Washington for votes.

Both parties have incentive, however. The "fiscal cliff" is a series of tax hikes and budget cuts that kick in next year if the White House and Congress are unable to reach a debt reduction agreement. That prospect affects every American, and could ring down a new recession.

There's also the holiday incentive. Many members of both parties would like to get something done by Christmas. For that to happen, given the congressional calender, the president and the Speaker will probably need to put up something by the end of this week.

At their meeting on Sunday, Obama and Boehner presumably discussed the major sticking points.

Obama and the Democrats say the government, in order to reduce its $16 trillion-plus debt, needs more revenue from higher tax rates on the wealthy. Boehner and the Republicans want more spending cuts, including the entitlement programs of Social Security and Medicare.

After the confab at the White House, both sides issues identical statements saying that "we're not reading out details of the conversation, but the lines of communication remain open."

Obama -- and presumably Boehner -- aren't remaining totally silent, however.

This afternoon, Obama travels to Redford, Michigan, where he will promote his fiscal cliff plan at Daimler Detroit Diesel.

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