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McConnell: 2 sides close on 'fiscal cliff' deal

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he and the White House have agreed on preventing tax hikes that the "fiscal cliff" will trigger after midnight. And he says they are very close to an overall deal that would also prevent budget-wide spending cuts.

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The Kentucky Republican did not provide any details. But he said on the Senate floor that lawmakers should pass legislation averting tax increases that would otherwise take effect at the start of New Year's Day.

McConnell spoke after President Barack Obama said in televised remarks from the White House that a deal was in sight.

Obama says this has been a "pressing issue on people's minds," and tells an audience of middle-class taxpayers the deal would, among other things, extend unemployment benefits for Americans "who are still out there looking for a job."

He voiced regret that the work of the administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill won't produce a "grand bargain" on tax-and-spend issues, but said that "with this Congress, it couldn't happen at that time."

Officials familiar with the negotiations say an agreement would raise tax rates on family income over $450,000 a year and increase the estate tax rate.

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