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Obama bringing lawmakers to Oval Office for last-minute 'cliff' talks

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

President Obama returns to the White House on Thursday after cutting short a holiday in Hawaii. He will hold at least one meeting with House and Senate leaders to try to avoid the "fiscal cliff."

President Barack Obama and lawmakers were launching a last-chance round of budget talks days before a New Year's deadline to reach a deal or watch the economy go off a "fiscal cliff."

NBC News has confirmed that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will meet with House and Senate leaders on Friday afternoon to try to revive negotiations to avoid tax hikes and spending cuts -- together worth $600 billion -- that will otherwise begin to take effect on Jan. 1.  Scheduled to attend the Oval Office meeting are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John Boehner and (R-Ohio), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Members were divided on the odds of success, with a few expressing hope, some talking as if they had abandoned it, and a small but growing number suggesting Congress might try to stretch the deadline into the first two days of January.

What happens to you if US goes off 'cliff'

In order to be ready to legislate if an agreement takes shape, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives convened a session for Sunday.

And House Majority Leader Eric Cantor advised members to be prepared to meet through Jan. 2, the final day before the swearing-in of the new Congress elected on Nov. 6.

Under pressure to show up even without a deal in hand, Congress will work this holiday weekend as the top Democrat and Republican leaders sit down with President Obama to discuss the fiscal cliff.  NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports.

It "doesn't feel like anything that's very constructive is going to happen" as a result of the meeting with Obama, said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). "It feels more like optics than anything that's real."

Politics: Lawmakers brace for blame

The two political parties remained far apart, particularly over plans to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans to help close the U.S. budget deficit. But one veteran Republican, Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, held out the prospect that if Obama came through with significant spending cuts, Republicans in the House might compromise on taxes.

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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