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(NECN/NBC News: Kristen Welker) - Now that Thanksgiving is over, President Obama and Congressional lawmakers are facing a pressing deadline: They need to get a deal done to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff before the first of the new year.
If they don't, economists say, it could be devastating to the already fragile recovery.
As Obama said, "I think we're all aware we have some urgent business to do."
After a meeting at the White House last week, Congressional leaders struck a rare tone of bipartisanship.
John Boehner said, “We had a very constructive meeting with the president.”
Harry Reid added, “We feel very comfortable with each other.”
But a major sticking point remains: taxes. President Obama wants to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans, and many Republicans still oppose that idea. Aides have been trying to work out a compromise.
“None of this is pretty,” said Jared Bernstein. “It's actually ridiculous -- pretty dysfunctional politics. We've set this crazy trap for ourselves and we're about to inflict a wound on an economy that really doesn't need that.”
In addition, the fragile ceasefire looms large in the Middle East.
Some analysts say this could be an opening for Obama to engage more actively in a Mideast peace process -- something he failed to do during his first term.
“We have to explore what is possible, but we have to be realistic and to go in with our eyes open,” said Dennis Ross.
And then there's the attack against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
Republican lawmakers have accused UN ambassador Susan Rice of providing false information after she appeared on the Sunday shows days later, saying the incident was "spontaneous.”
This week, Rice defended herself.
“When discussing the attack against our facilities in Benghazi, I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community,” she said.