President Barack Obama says the tax-cut deal he negotiated with Republicans is a “good deal for the American people,” and he’s calling on Congress to pass it before the end of the year to keep tax rates from rising for just about everyone in 2011.

The deal would extend for all earners cuts in income tax rates that are set to expire next month. It also would renew jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and trim Social Security taxes for one year. Republicans support the plan because it would not impose higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans, as Obama long had wanted to do. Democrats object to the pact on grounds that it is too generous to the rich.

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In his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, Obama acknowledged that passage of the deal means both parties will have to accept some things they don’t like. But he said the agreement will help the middle-class families that he and others have argued should be spared further economic hardship.

“The opportunity for families to send their kids to college hinges on this debate,” Obama said Saturday. “The ability of parents to put food on the table while looking for a job depends on this debate. And our recovery will be strengthened or weakened based on the choice that now rests with Congress.

“So I strongly urge members of both parties to pass this plan. And I’m confident that they will do the right thing,” he said.

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Lawmakers were expected to begin voting on the measure next week.

Obama won some high-profile backing for the agreement from former President Bill Clinton.  The former president told reporters after an Oval Office meeting with Obama on Friday afternoon that “I don’t believe there is a better deal out there.”

In their weekly address, Republican Rep.-elect Kristi Noem of South Dakota applauded the deal and said it’s good for small businesses.

“With unemployment still rising, the No. 1 thing our family-owned small businesses need right now is certainty,” she said. “They need to know that the government is not going to come in and do anything to jeopardize their ability to keep their doors open. So it’s certainly encouraging to see that President Obama has proposed a potential agreement to stop all the tax hikes scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1.”

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But she said additional steps will be needed to spur economic growth, including spending cuts, making government smaller and repealing the new health care law.