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[cnbc explains]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.

“They will probably have to put everything off until early next year,” he added. “That’s probably the best thing to do right now. But the Republicans don’t want to do that unless he agrees to extend the tax cuts permanently, including for upper income people, and I don’t think the president should do that.”