Obama Says Immediate Action Needed on Fiscal Cliff

President Barack Obama speaks to reporters in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington after meeting with Congressional leaders regarding the fiscal cliff, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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By Aaron Hepker

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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