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Obama cuts Hawaii trip short to address "fiscal cliff"

KAILUA, Hawaii President Barack Obama is cutting short his traditional Christmas holiday in Hawaii to return to Washington as lawmakers consider how to prevent the economy from going over the so-called fiscal cliff, the White House said Tuesday.

Obama will fly back to the nation's capital Wednesday night, just five days after arriving in Hawaii, White House officials said. In the past, the president's end-of-the-year holiday in his native state has stretched into the new year.

Congress is expected to return to Washington on Thursday. Automatic budget cuts and tax increases are set to begin in January. So far, the president and congressional Republicans have been unable to reach agreement on any alternatives.


CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reportedearlier Tuesday that the president will likely put pressure on Congress to pass a Democratic plan being drafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"There still have been no conversations between Democrats and Republicans Tuesday on how to avert the fiscal cliff," Cordes reported from Hawaii. "That's a sure sign that Reid is working on crafting legislation on his own, which he'd essentially dare Republicans in the House and Senate to pass just before the deadline."

Cordes notes that Reid's bill would likely extend the Bush-era tax cuts for households making less than $250,000 a year. It may also include enough short-term spending cuts to temporarily offset, for about six to eight months, the across-the-board spending cuts set to go into effect on January 1, 2013.

Lawmakers have expressed little but pessimism for the prospect of an agreement coming before Jan. 1. On Sunday, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said she expects any action in the waning days of the year to be "a patch because in four days we can't solve everything."

The Obamas were spending the holiday at a rented home near Honolulu. On Christmas Day, the president and first lady Michelle Obama visited with Marines to express thanks for their service.

"One of my favorite things is always coming to base on Christmas Day just to meet you and say thank you," the president said. He called being commander in chief his greatest honor as president.

Obama took photos with individual service members and their families.

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