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WASHINGTON -- Top members of Congress and President Barack Obama are holding out slim hopes for a limited fiscal deal before the new year. Congressional leaders are preparing to meet at the White House, but there are no signs that legislation palatable to both sides is taking shape.



A Friday afternoon meeting among congressional leaders and the president -- their first since Nov. 16 -- stands as a make-or-break moment for negotiations to avoid across-the-board first-of-the-year tax increases and deep spending cuts.



Obama called for the meeting as top lawmakers alternately cast blame on each other while portraying themselves as open to a reasonable last-minute bargain.

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