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Clinton to the rescue?

From NBC's Athena Jones: With the fate of a tax deal reached with Republicans still uncertain, President Obama brought out one of his party's biggest guns to help drum up support for the agreement: former President Bill Clinton.

The current president called on his predecessor in part to help convince angry Democrats -- especially in the House of Representatives -- to pull together to vote for a bill he believes will help spur economic growth and job creation and without which the economic recovery could falter.

"I thought, given the fact that he presided over as good an economy as we've seen in our lifetimes, that it might be useful for him to share some of his thoughts," Obama said in introducing Clinton.

Clinton's surprise appearance in the White House briefing room after a closed door meeting with the president was the latest salvo in a massive, week-long, multimedia blitz by the White House urging passage of the bill.

Officials have used television interviews, the Internet, speeches, and phone calls to press the plan.

"The agreement, taken as a whole, is I believe the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the largest number of Americans and to maximize the chances that the economic recovery will accelerate and create more jobs and to minimize chances that it will slip back," Clinton said, later adding that if he were in office right now, he would do what Obama has done.

Under the plan -- which has angered many Democrats, especially in the House -- the Bush-era tax rates would be extended for two years for people at all income levels and unemployment insurance would be extended for 13 months. The deal includes a one-year 2 percent reduction in payroll taxes, an extension of certain tax credits for working families and students and other tax incentives to support business expansion.

The Senate is set to move first. Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a procedural vote in the upper to begin debate on the agreement for Monday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Democrats got a good deal out of the compromise, because provisions like unemployment insurance and the American Opportunity Tax Credit were things that were "tremendously important." Earlier efforts to extend unemployment insurance were repeatedly blocked by Republicans this year.

Clinton echoed that argument, thanking Republicans for "agreeing to include things that were important to" Obama, and saying he believed the American people were "heaving a sigh of relief" that the two parties might come together and agree on something. The former president spoke several times about the need for the two parties to work together, as they did in the 1990s when he presided over a divided government.

"The story line is how well we worked with the Republicans and all that, but you know, we played political Kabuki for a year, had two government shutdowns. We can't afford that now," Clinton said. "We have got to pull together and both sides are gonna have to eat some things they don't like, because we cannot afford to have the kind of impasse that we had last time over a long period of time."