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Updated: Obama cuts Christmas break short

US president Barack Obama is cutting short his traditional Christmas holiday in Hawaii, planning to leave for Washington tonight as he and the government consider how to prevent the economy from going over the so-called fiscal cliff.

Obama was expected to arrive in Washington early Thursday, the White House said. First lady Michelle Obama and the couple's two daughters will remain in Hawaii.

In the past, the president's end-of-the-year holiday in his native state had stretched into the new year. The first family left Washington last Friday night.

Congress was expected to return to Washington on Thursday. Before he departed for Hawaii, Obama told reporters he expected to be back in the capital this week.

Dramatic budget cuts and tax increases are set to begin in January.

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