WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama says it appears that an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff is "within sight," but says it's not yet complete and work continues.
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, raise the estate tax rate and extend unemployment benefits for one year.
The source says the deal in the works would return tax rates on families making over $450,000 to 39.6 percent. The tax on estates worth more than $5 million would increase to 40 percent. And unemployment benefits would continue for one year.
Officials say the White House and Republicans are at an impasse over what to do about automatic, across-the-board spending cuts set to begin taking effect on Jan. 1. Democrats want to put off the cuts for one year.
The officials requested anonymity in order to discuss the internal negotiations.
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