News Column

Obama: 'We Got to Pay Our Bills'

Jan 14, 2013

President Obama says he will not negotiate with congressional Republicans on raising the debt ceiling, saying America is not a "deadbeat" country.

"The debt ceiling is not question of authorizing more spending," Obama said in what is likely his last news conference of his first presidential term. "It allows the country to pay for spending that Congress already committed to. These are bills that are already racked up and we need to pay."

He said he was "happy" to have a conversation about reducing the deficit, but not have that conversation tied to raising the debt ceiling.

"The issue here is whether or not America pays its bills. We are not a deadbeat nation," Obama said. "So there's a very simple solution to this: Congress authorizes us to pay our bills."

He didn't specifically say he would take executive action, but said he understands the "impulse to try to get around this in a simple way."

"But there's one way to get around this. There's one way to deal with it, and that is for Congress to authorize me to pay for those items of spending that they have already authorized.

Threats of allowing the government to shut down would be "disastrous" for the American economy, Obama said, warning that Social Security checks would be delayed and the nation could sink into another recession.

"If congressional Republicans refuse to pay Americans' bills on time, Social Security and veterans benefits will be delayed. We might not be able to pay our troops," Obama said during a news conference that touched in part on the looming deadline to raise the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling.

For some Republicans to "even entertain" the idea of allowing the country default on its debt "is irresponsible; it's absurd. We got to pay our bills."

"They will not collect ransom in exchange for not wrecking the American economy," Obama said. "The full faith and credit is not a bargaining chip."

If Republicans are truly interested in reducing the deficit, they will have a friend in him.

"We've got to break this habit of negotiating through crisis," Obama said.

Obama also said he would review proposals submitted by a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden then publicly announce his proposal later this week.

Biden has spent the past several weeks conferring with interest groups and developing recommendations.

"My starting point is not [to] worry about politics but focus on what makes sense and what works," Obama said. "I think we can do [something] in a sensible way that comports with Second Amendment."

He reiterated his desire to enhance background checks, get rid of high-capacity ammunition magazines and have an assault weapons ban "that's meaningful."

The proposals likely would be a combination that could be achieved by both legislation and executive action.

He said opposition sometimes comes from a "fear that's fanned by those who are worried about any legislation getting out there."

Source: Copyright United Press International 2013

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