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Associated Press
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., leaves the White House on Friday after fiscal cliff negotiations. Results will be shared with senators today.

Obama: Have stopgap ready

As senators discuss fiscal deal, president thinks short-term

– President Obama urged Congress on Saturday to at least pass a short-term measure that would avert major tax increases for most Americans in the new year while continuing to press for a comprehensive deal to avoid the imminent fiscal cliff of severe budget cuts and tax increases.

“Congress can prevent it from happening, if they act now,” Obama said in his weekly radio address.

“Leaders in Congress are working on a way to prevent this tax hike on the middle class, and I believe we may be able to reach an agreement that can pass both houses in time.”

Obama added that “if an agreement isn’t reached in time, then I’ll urge the Senate to hold an up-or-down vote on a basic package that protects the middle class from an income tax hike, extends vital unemployment insurance for Americans looking for a job, and lays the groundwork for future progress on more economic growth and deficit reduction.”

In the Republicans’ radio address Saturday, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said the onus was on Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to formulate a deal that can muster bipartisan support.

“We still can avoid going over the fiscal cliff if the president and the Democrat-controlled Senate step forward this week and work with Republicans to solve this problem and solve it now,” Blunt said.

Senior aides to Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., were planning to meet Saturday afternoon to resume negotiations. No further announcements were likely until this afternoon, when leaders would present the results of the talks to their respective party caucuses, a Democratic aide said.

The main sticking points in the talks are setting the income threshold for extending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts and lowering the exemption on estate taxes.

The White House announced Saturday that Obama will appear on “Meet the Press” this morning. It will be only the second time he has been on the NBC News show as president, the last being in 2009 during the health-care reform debate, and will allow him to keep pressure on Congress.

Senate leaders appeared to be on the verge of an agreement Friday that would let taxes rise on the wealthiest households while protecting the vast majority of Americans from historic tax hikes set to hit in January.

As the Senate began haggling over critical details, the emerging deal faced an uncertain fate in the House, where Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, failed a week ago to persuade his adamantly anti-tax caucus to let taxes rise even for millionaires.

The wheels are now in motion for the Senate to vote Monday, Senate aides said. If that vote were successful, the Republican-controlled House would have mere hours to decide whether to approve the legislation or take the blame for letting taxes rise next month for nearly 90 percent of Americans – and for potentially sparking a new recession.

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