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Still Time For Fiscal Cliff Agreement, Obama Says

By DAVID ESPO

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ President Barack Obama issued a stern summons to congressional leaders Friday to approve legislation before year's end to prevent tax increases on millions of middle class Americans and prevent an expiration of long-term unemployment benefits for the jobless.

One day after House anti-tax rebels torpedoed Republican legislation because it would raise rates on million-dollar-earners, Obama said he still wants a bill that requires the well-to-do to pay more. "Everybody's got to give a little bit in a sensible way" to prevent the economy from pitching over a recession-threatening fiscal cliff, he said.

He spoke after talking by phone with House Speaker John Boehner â¿¿ architect of the failed House bill â¿¿ and meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"I still think we can get it done," Obama said as he struggled to pick up the pieces of weeks of failed negotiations and political maneuvering.

The president spoke at the end of a day in which stocks tumbled and congressional leaders squabbled as the fiscal cliff drew implacably closer.

"How we get there, God only knows," said Boehner at a morning news conference, referring to the increasingly tangled attempts to beat the Jan. 1 deadline and head off the perilous combination of across-the-board tax hikes and deep spending cuts that threaten to send the economy into recession.

There was no immediate response from his office to the president's remarks.

Obama spoke shortly before a scheduled departure to join his family in Hawaii for Christmas, but in an indication of the importance of the issue, he told reporters he would be returning to the White House next week.

He said that in his negotiations with Boehner, he had offered to meet Republicans halfway when it came to taxes, and "more than halfway" toward their target for spending cuts.

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