(CNBC) — Former President Bill Clinton told CNBC Tuesday that the US economy already is in a recession and urged Congress to extend all the tax cuts due to expire at the end of the year.

In a taped interview aired on “Closing Bell,” the still-popular 42nd president called the current economic conditions a “recession” and said overzealous Republican plans to cut the deficit threaten to plunge the country further into the debt abyss.

“What I think we need to do is find some way to avoid the fiscal cliff, to avoid doing anything that would contract the economy now, and then deal with what’s necessary in the long term debt-reduction plans as soon as they can, which presumably would be after the election,” Clinton said.

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