WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama demanded Monday that Congress raise the federal debt limit quickly, warning that Social Security benefits and veterans' checks will be delayed if they don't and cautioning Republicans not to insist on concessions in exchange.
They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the economy, he said at the final news conference of his first term. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip. And they better decide quickly because time is running short.
We are not a deadbeat nation, he declared.
Speaker John Boehner said the GOP-controlled House will do its job and pass legislation to lift the nation's borrowing cap and keep the government running but will insist that Democrats accept new spending controls.
Boehner acknowledged Monday that failing to lift the so-called debt ceiling would have bad consequences. But he also said that allowing our spending problem to go unresolved would be just as troublesome.
Obama opened his news conference with a statement noting that a vote to increase the debt limit does not authorize more spending. It simply allows the country to pay for spending that Congress already has agreed to. These are bills we've already racked up, and we need to pay them.
Obama said he was willing to consider future deficit cuts but only if they are done independently from a vote to raise the $16.4 trillion debt limit.
In a blunt rebuttal to Republicans who say they will not agree to any more tax increases, the president said taxes and spending both must be on the table.
He said he is open to making modest adjustments to programs like Medicare to protect them for future generations, and wants to close tax loopholes at the same time.
Obama spoke less than a week before his inauguration for a second term, and several days after he signed legislation that narrowly averted a fiscal cliff of automatic spending cuts and across-the-board tax increases.
Combined with other bills he signed earlier in the term, he said he and Congress have reduced deficits by about $2.5 trillion over a decade, somewhat less than the $4 trillion he said is necessary to get them down to a manageable size.
I'm happy to have a conversation about how we reduce our deficits in a sensible way, he said, but added repeatedly he wasn't willing to let congressional Republicans use the debt limit as leverage in negotiations over spending cuts.
Failure to raise the debt limit would put the United States into a first-ever default, a step that Obama said could blow up the economy.