U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday urged Congress to act to raise the nation's debt ceiling in hopes of averting another showdown with Republican lawmakers that could result in a government default.
"America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether Congress should pay the bills they have already racked up," Obama said.
In the final press conference of his first four-year term in office, Obama continued to focus heavily on the fiscal challenges facing the country, including automatic spending cuts due to hit the government in March.
The debt limit must be raised beyond the current $16.4 trillion by mid-February to continue financing the $1-trillion annual deficit, the Congressional Budget Office said.
Republicans in Congress have threatened to tie any increase in the debt ceiling to demands for spending cuts, after they were forced to give ground on tax increases in a showdown over the austerity measures known as the fiscal cliff earlier this month.
Congress reached agreement on taxes in those negotiations, but postponed until March severe spending cuts that observers warn would devastate government programmes.
Obama will begin his second term in office on Sunday, with a pomp-filled public ceremony on Monday.
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