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President Obama speaks on fiscal cliff

President Barack Obama has made a ten-minute televised statement on progress towards a deal ahead of the midnight deadline for the "fiscal cliff." His Republican opponents responded positively, within hours.

Speaking from the White House, President Barack Obama made a ten minute televised statement on Monday afternoon. He said the negotiations in Congress were ongoing and progress was being made towards an agreement to prevent a tax hike for middle class families, which he said was his top priority.

Obama said that agreement was in sight but there were still issues to resolve. He added that the problem would be solved in steps.

Shortly afterwards, the AP news agency reported Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he and the White House had agreed on preventing tax hikes that the fiscal cliff would trigger after midnight. McConnell was reported as saying the two sides were very close to an overall deal that would also prevent budget-wide spending cuts.

McConnell issued this comment via his website: "As the President just said, the most important piece, the piece that has to be done now, is preventing the tax hikes. He said: 'For now our most immediate priority is to stop taxes going up for middle class families starting tomorrow.' He suggested that action on the sequester is something we can continue to work on in the coming months."

"So I agree, let’s pass the tax relief portion now. Let’s take what’s been agreed to and get moving. The President wants this, members of Congress want to protect taxpayers, and we can get it done now," the Senator's statement continued.

"Let me be clear: We will continue to work on finding smarter ways to cut spending, but let’s not let that hold up protecting Americans from the tax hike that will take place in about 10 hours." McConnell's statement concluded.

jm/dr (AP, Reuters)