Last ditch effort to avoid fiscal cliff underway - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Last ditch effort to avoid fiscal cliff underway

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WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- There appears to be some optimism that lawmakers can reach an agreement to keep the country from going over the so-called fiscal cliff.

President Barack Obama met with congressional leaders at the White House on Friday and says he's optimistic they can reach an agreement.

If they don't, a combination of automatic tax hikes and deep spending cuts will take effect.

The president said that would be a setback for middle class families and our economy.

"Economists, business leaders all think that we're poised to grow in 2013 as long as politics in Washington don't get in the way of America's progress. So we've got to get this done," said Obama.

If Congress can't reach a deal, the president called for lawmakers to vote on a basic package that would preserve tax cuts for middle class Americans and extend long-term unemployment benefits.

Senate leaders say they hope to reach a deal that could be presented to lawmakers by Sunday. Under a timetable sketched by congressional aides, any agreement would first go to the Senate for a vote. The House would then be asked to vote, possibly as late as Jan. 2, the final full day before a new Congress takes office.

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