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Obama calls congressional leaders on fiscal cliff

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House says President Barack Obama has made separate phone calls to congressional leaders to discuss the impending fiscal cliff.

A White House official says Obama called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi late Wednesday. The president made the calls before leaving his Hawaiian vacation for Washington, D.C.

The calls come amid little progress before the Dec. 31 deadline to avoid the fiscal cliff. Americans face major tax increases and spending cuts if Congress and the White House fail to reach a compromise by the end of the year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the government appears headed over the so-called fiscal cliff because of a lack of progress in bipartisan negotiations.

The Nevada Democrat says it's up to congressional Republicans to come up with a plan that both houses would pass and President Barack Obama would sign.

Reid says of missing the Dec. 31 deadline to avoid the fiscal cliff, quote: "it looks like that's where we're headed."

Major tax hikes and spending cuts will hit most Americans if Congress and the White House don't reach a compromise by the year's end.

Stocks are headed for a fourth straight loss on Wall Street as a budget deadline neared with no deal in sight.

Investors were spooked by a survey that found consumer confidence plunged this month as Americans worried about the looming fiscal "cliff."

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index fell to 65.1 this month from 71.5 in November. That's the lowest level since August. The outlook for the next six months deteriorated to its lowest level since 2011.

The market was unimpressed by scattered signs that the U.S. economy might be improving. The government reported that unemployment claims fell and sales of new homes rose.


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