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Bill Clinton backs Obama on tax cut deal

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Former President Bill Clinton made a surprise appearance at President Barack Obama's side Friday to back the tax cut compromise Obama negotiated with Republicans.

"I don't believe there is a better deal out there," Clinton told reporters in the White House briefing room who had been summoned at a moment's notice to see the former chief executive back the current one.

Clinton and Obama had just finished a private meeting in the Oval Office.

Obama said it was a "terrific meeting" and then turned the podium over to Clinton.

The voluble former president took it away, and Obama left partway through his remarks, saying he had holiday parties to attend.

"Both sides are going to have to eat some things they don't like," Clinton told reporters. "We don't want to slip back into a recession. We've got to keep this thing going and accelerate its pace. I think this is the best available option."

The deal includes a two-year extension of tax cuts for all income levels, and an extension of unemployment benefits. A number of liberal Democrats oppose the deal, saying it gives away too much to Republicans.

Earlier, Obama predicted Congress would approve the tax-cutting compromise, but he did not rule out that unhappy congressional Democrats will make some changes in the legislation.

In an interview with NPR released Friday, Obama said that despite a rebellion by many Democrats against his tax deal, it will pass because "nobody - Democrat or Republican - wants to see people's paychecks smaller on Jan. 1 because Congress didn't act."

The pact would extend cuts in income tax rates for all earners that would otherwise expire next month, renew long-term jobless benefits and trim Social Security taxes for one year.

Democrats have objected that it is too generous to the rich, especially its provisions cutting estate taxes for the wealthiest Americans. House Democrats voted in a closed-door meeting Thursday not to allow the package to reach the floor for a vote without changes to scale back tax relief for the rich.

Asked about those objections, Obama said there will be talks between House and Senate leaders about the package's final details.

The measure appears headed for Senate approval after negotiators added a few sweeteners to promote ethanol and other forms of alternative energy.

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