U.S. President Barack Obama has made a brief statement on television after meeting with top leaders from the Democratic and Republican parties to discuss the approaching deadline for a fiscal agreement.
"The hour for immediate action is here. It is now," Obama said.
"We're now at the point where in just four days, every American's tax rates are scheduled to go up by law."
Obama met on December 28 at the White House with the leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties in the Senate and House of Representatives and said he was encouraged that an agreement could be reached in time.
"I just had a good and constructive discussion here at the White House with Senate and House leadership about how to prevent this tax hike on the middle class and I'm optimistic we may still be able to reach an agreement that can pass both houses in time," the president said.
The U.S. president said he hoped a compromise would be ready to present to lawmakers by December 30, but he added that if the two sides could not find common ground he at least wanted an agreement that prevents tax rates for middle-class families from rising.
"If an agreement isn't reached in time between [Democratic majority leader] Senator [Harry] Reid and [Republican minority leader] Senator [Mitch] McConnell, then I will urge Senator Reid to bring to the floor a basic package for an up or down vote, one that protects the middle class from an income-tax hike, extends the vital lifeline of unemployment insurance to 2 million Americans looking for a job, and lays the groundwork for future cooperation on more economic growth and deficit reduction," he said.
Obama said he was "hopeful and modestly optimistic" an agreement could be reached that would prevent more than $600 billion worth of tax increases and government spending cuts -- known as the "fiscal cliff" -- from coming into effect after January 1.
He reminded lawmakers how many people are counting on them to do the work they were elected to do.
"Let's make sure that middle-class families and the American economy, and in fact, the world economy aren't adversely impacted because people can't do their jobs," Obama said.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP