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Fiscal cliff debate: 'Lines of communication are open'

Spokespeople for both sides of the fiscal cliff debate indicated that they may be communicating. In the meantime, economists warned that failure to strike a deal could strike a blow to the economy, perhaps plunging the country back into recession. 

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This November file photo shows President Barack Obama, accompanied by House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, speaking to reporters at the White House. According to spokespeople, the two sides appear to be preparing to put an end to the fiscal cliff debate.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File

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 With little to show after a month of posturing, the White House and Republicans in Congress dropped hints on Thursday that they had resumed low-level private talks on breaking the stalemate over the "fiscal cliff" but refused to divulge details.

A day after a phone conversation between President Barack Obama and John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, appeared to kick-start communications, both sides used similar language to describe the state of negotiations but imposed a media blackout on developments.

"Lines of communication remain open," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters when pressed on whether staff talks were taking place to avoid the steep tax hikes and budget cuts set for the first of next year unless the parties agree on a way to stop them.

Asked the same question, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel also said "lines of communication are open."

The acknowledgement, even without signs of anything approaching a breakthrough, passed for encouraging news after a week of public maneuvering on the fiscal cliff by both sides to gain the maximum political and public relations advantage. 

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