President Barack Obama on Monday repeated his call for deficit reduction but warned against the potentially catastrophic effect on the economy by tying cuts to raising the debt ceiling.
"While I'm willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficit, America cannot afford another debate with this Congress over how to pay the bills they've already racked up," Obama said in the East Room of the White House at what aides have billed as the final news conference of his first term. "To even entertain the idea of this happening, of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It's absurd."
"They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy," Obama said. "The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip."
The news conference, the last of his first term, was a chance for Obama to drive the conversation on the debate on delayed spending cuts and the coming need to raise the debt ceiling.
"The issue here is whether America pays its bills," Obama said. "We are not a deadbeat nation."
Obama's push for Republicans to agree to a longer term deal comes after POLITICO reported Sunday that House Republicans are seriously considering letting the U.S. default on its debt or shutting down the government.
The Treasury Department estimates that that it will no longer be able to satisfy its debt obligations by late February or early March. If Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling by that point, the U.S. government would default. But even if Republicans agrees to raise the debt ceiling, they could threaten a government shutdown when current funding expires on March 27.
Obama spent much of his time repeating the message, comparing members of Congress who are opposed to raising the debt ceiling to diners trying to dash on their restaurant bill.
"You don't go out to dinner and then eat all you want and then leave without paying the check, and if you do, you're breaking the law. And Congress should think about it the same way the American people do," he said.
Later, he added: "This is the United States of America. We can't manage our affairs in terms of the way we pay our bills? ... I don't think anyone would consider my position unreasonable."
Obama spoke broadly about his second-term agenda, mentioning energy, immigration, education and gun violence as issues he intends to tackle.
Obama also said he has begun examining Vice President Joe Biden's recommendations for combating gun violence in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting, and will present his ideas in the coming days. He indicated that he plans to push for tougher background checks, restrictions on the size of magazines and a "meaningful" assault weapons ban.
Though some Democrats have said they are reluctant to push ahead with politically unpopular ideas, Obama said he will forge ahead. "My starting point is not to focus on the politics, my starting point is to focus on what makes sense, what works," he said.
It was Obama's 21st full White House news conference and 108th time taking questions from the press, according to CBS News's Mark Knoller, who tracks these statistics.
The Gazette now offers Facebook Comments on its stories. You must be logged into your Facebook account to add comments. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal page, uncheck the box below the comment. Comments deemed offensive by the moderators will be removed, and commenters who persist may be banned from commenting on the site.