Obama Says Immediate Action Needed on Fiscal Cliff

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has told congressional leaders that the time to act on averting the fiscal cliff is now.

Obama met with House and Senate leaders for an hour earlier this afternoon at the White House. Later at a press briefing, he called the meeting "good and constructive" and said he's modestly optimistic that an agreement can be reached.

Obama warned that the patience of Americans has already worn thin and that Washington needs to act. He also warned that the U.S. and global economies could be negatively impacted.

He's said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell are attempting to work out an agreement.

Obama also wants a vote on his proposal to prevent tax hikes on the middle-class and extend unemployment benefits to about 2 million Americans who are out of work.
President Barack Obama says "the hour for immediate action is here" on a deal to avert the fiscal cliff.

The president says he remains "optimistic" that an agreement can be reached in Congress before a looming year-end deadline to avoid tax increases and spending cuts.

If Congress can't reach a deal, the president says Congress should allow a vote on a basic package that would preserve tax cuts for middle-class Americans while extending unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless and working toward a foundation for a broader deal.

The president says an hourlong meeting Friday with congressional leaders was "good and constructive."

Senate leaders say they hope to reach a compromise that could be presented to lawmakers by Sunday, little more than 24 hours before the deadline.