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Pres. Obama expected to offer scaled-down cliff plan

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ When congressional leaders gather at the White House this afternoon, they'll be hearing a limited proposal from President Barack Obama aimed at avoiding the tax increases and deep spending cuts that are slated to take effect next week.
 
   Lawmakers and White House officials are holding out a slim hope for a deal, but it's not clear whether congressional passage of legislation that both sides can accept is even possible.
 
   Today's meeting -- the first since mid-November -- is expected to center on which income thresholds would face higher tax rates. There will likely be talk about extending unemployment insurance, and preventing a cut in Medicare payments to doctors.
 
   Despite early talk of a grand bargain that would reduce deficits by more than $2 trillion, the expectations now are far less ambitious.
 
   Republicans and Democrats say any agreement will likely include an extension of middle-class tax cuts with increased rates at upper incomes. The deal would likely put off the scheduled spending cuts.

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