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WASHINGTON (AP) -- 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.


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