Local Politics

Obama acknowledges opposition on debt, gun pushes

Posted January 14, 2013

— President Barack Obama demanded on Monday that lawmakers raise the nation's $16.4 trillion 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 cuts to government spending in exchange.

"They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the economy," he said at the 21st and 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."

Answering questions for about an hour, Obama also said he will soon ask Congress to enact new gun control legislation in the wake of the shootings that left 20 elementary students dead at a Newtown, Conn., school a little more than a month ago.

Among the proposals under consideration are a ban on assault-style weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines. Obama said he would unveil his proposals next week. He was meeting after his news conference with Vice President Joe Biden, his point man in producing gun control measures to present to Congress.

Facing stiff opposition from the National Rifle Association, he conceded lawmakers may not approve everything he asks for.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory added his voice Monday to those who think more laws are unneccessary.

"Whether you're pro-gun or anti-gun, on both sides we've got enough laws on the books," he said.

"The fact of the matter is I've had some members of security say they aren't enforcing some of the federal laws that they should be enforcing at this point in time. So I've always said check the laws that are currently on the books and see if they're being enforced." 

Obama joked about perhaps inviting more members of Congress to the White House for social functions. With his daughters growing older and less inclined to spend their time with him and his wife, Michelle, he said, "I'm getting kind of lonely in this big house."

But the risk of a default once the debt ceiling is reached dominated the news conference, and Obama treated it as anything but a laughing matter.

"We are not a deadbeat nation," he declared, less than a week away from taking the oath of office for a second term.

Within minutes, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the president and his allies in Congress need to get serious about spending, and the debt-limit debate is the perfect time for it.

"I do know that the most important issue confronting the future of our country is our deficit and debt," McConnell said. "So we are hoping for a new seriousness on the part of the president with regard to the single biggest issue confronting the country, and we look forward to working with him to do something about this huge, huge problem."

House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement, "The American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without reducing government spending at the same time. ... The House will do its job and pass responsible legislation that controls spending, meets our nation's obligations and keeps the government running, and we will insist that the Democratic majority in Washington do the same."

While most of the questions focused on the economy and gun control, Obama also urged critics not to "rush to judgment" in evaluating his second-term team for diversity.

He turned aside a question of whether his record with Congress would be better if he invited more lawmakers to the White House in off-hours. When guests from Congress make the trip to the executive mansion, "I promise you, Michelle and I are very nice to them. We have a wonderful time. But it doesn't stop them from going on the floor of the House and blasting me for being a big spending Socialist," he said.

Obama made his remarks as a new Congress was settling in for its own new term, Republicans in control of the House and Democrats in the Senate.

Lawmakers face three distinct deadlines before April 1. The debt limit must be raised to prevent a default, a series of across-the-board spending cuts is to kick in on March 1, and funding for most government programs will run out on March 27.

Obama virtually dared Republicans to let the government shut down rather than renew funding beyond March 27. "It will hurt the economy," he said emphatically.

The president opened his news conference with a statement by saying that a vote to increase the debt limit "does not authorize more spending. It simply allows the country to pay for spending that Congress has already agreed to. These are bills we've already racked up and we need to pay them."

Jabbing at Republicans, he quoted House Speaker John Boehner's remarks of two years ago that allowing a default on U.S. obligations — the practical effect of failing to raise the debt limit — would be a disaster.

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."

Congressional Democrats have recently urged the president to lift the debt limit unilaterally. He said — as he has before — that he won't do it, that Congress had voted for the spending that resulted in federal borrowing, and should now agree to pay the bill.

When it came to gun legislation, the president sought to reassure sportsmen and hunters that they have nothing for worry about.

"The issue here is not whether or not we believe in the 2nd Amendment. The issue is whether there are sensible steps we can take so that the individual in Newtown can't walk into a school and gun down a bunch of children in a shockingly rapid fashion. Certainly we can do something about that," he said.

Short of legislation, the president said there were administrative actions he could take. Asked to provide an example, he said, "How we are gathering data, for example, on guns that fall into the hands of criminals and how we track that more effectively."

384 Comments

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  • junkmail5 Jan 15, 8:03 a.m.

    It is not mathematically impossible. we spend 4 trillion we bring in 2.7 trillion. If we only spend 2.7 trillion, problem solved. See simple math. Why do you think that is impossible?
    Crayzee1

    Mainly because of math.

    Folks seem to mostly agree we won't touch social security, defense, or medicare/caid.

    After those things, and interest on the debt, you have ALREADY spent about 2.7 trillion.

    So you're out of money.

    And haven't put a cent into the _entire rest of the federal government_

    Including the various parts that collect quite a bit of that revenue you're counting on.

    Including the FBI and CIA

    Including the ATF to enforce gun laws everyone is so concerned with

    Including the IRS so no income tax

    Including all the highway and education funds states depend on

    Including folks who inspect everything from meat to drugs to ports

    Including benefits for retired veterans and federal employees

    Including every bit of infrastructure and R&D support

    And on and on- all gone.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Jan 14, 7:59 p.m.

    mep - "Key point: CURRENT tax laws. Everyone agrees they are the lowest in history and need to be raised. Besides, military get all sorts of free housing and food to boot."

    But they're required to live where they're required to live, and that often means paying out far more than they get.

  • Crayzee1 Jan 14, 7:58 p.m.

    It is not mathematically impossible. we spend 4 trillion we bring in 2.7 trillion. If we only spend 2.7 trillion, problem solved. See simple math. Why do you think that is impossible?

  • pipcolt Jan 14, 7:54 p.m.

    This country is being push closer to another 1776 as long as obama is in office. If you want one you keep messing with people money and there way of life. England tried the same thing and where did that get them.

  • mep Jan 14, 7:51 p.m.

    But lots of active military don't earn enough to do so under current tax law.

    Are they all freeloaders then?

    Key point: CURRENT tax laws. Everyone agrees they are the lowest in history and need to be raised. Besides, military get all sorts of free housing and food to boot.

    You are fundamentally wrong... the debt ceiling must be raised to continue current spending level.... it is the CURRENT spending that is resulting in the need to raise the limit. CUT SPENDING NOW. Go see the US debt clock website.

  • junkmail5 Jan 14, 7:51 p.m.

    Social Security is paid from another fund and the President can't stop the SS checks if the government shuts down.

    SS checks don't come from the general fund and budget.

    One more lie from Obama.
    ConservativeVoter

    Except it's not a lie.

    Social Security revenue ends up in the general fund, in exchange IOUs are put in the SS trust fund.

    To pay out SS benefits they have to cash in those IOUs.

    If we hit the debt ceiling we can not PAY those IOUs anymore.

    So no SS checks.

    There's no special magic pile of SS cash sitting in a vault to pay those benefits.

  • mep Jan 14, 7:47 p.m.

    "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".... So IF the Obama math is correct, Americans are now borrowing about $250 Billion less each year. But we still have to borrow about $800 BILLION just to keep the current spending. Does ANYONE ELSE see $4 trillion more in debt over the next 10 years, on top of our already staggering $16 TRILLION dollar debt as a SERIOUS PROBLEM???? I mean, not one dime is going towards paying down the debt.... we just dig deeper at a slower pace!

  • junkmail5 Jan 14, 7:47 p.m.

    Anything from the treasury dept website is pure and utter propaganda-Crayzee1

    Yeah, I mean, what would THEY know about how the financing of the federal government works!

    Again, leave the debt ceiling alone, massively cut government spending and pay the bills we have the tax revenue for. Simple, and honest.- Crayzee1

    And mathematically impossible.

    You sure live up to your name though!

    You imply that all active duty military and retired elderly pay no tax- Luvbailey

    No, I don't.

    I don't "imply" anything.

    I -state- that millions of elderly and active military do not pay income tax.

    Because they don't.

    And redwolfone apparently thinks that makes all of them (and your mom late in life) freeloaders.

  • Crayzee1 Jan 14, 7:46 p.m.

    I hope the republicans do hold the debt ceiling and government defaults. Better file taxes fast! I think they should make obama make tough choices. Refuse to increase borrowing capacity unless we get $3 dollars in cuts for every $1 increase.

  • junkmail5 Jan 14, 7:45 p.m.

    Gosh... when I served in the Military, I paid Federal taxes- Mep

    Great for you!

    But lots of active military don't earn enough to do so under current tax law.

    Are they all freeloaders then?

    Why shouldnt they pay taxes too? Retired does not equal poor.-Mep

    It actually does for a lot of elderly, who have little to no income beyond the social security they earned in their working life- so they no longer pay income tax either.

    Also freeloaders then?

    Its like the credit card company increasing your credit line.... sure, you dont have to spend up to the limit- Mep

    Except it's not like that AT ALL.

    The debt limit is for paying spending ALREADY in place....not future "run up the cards" spending that hasn't been passed yet.

    You are failing to understand, fundamentally, what you are talking about.

    They CAN NOT avoid raising the debt ceiling with simple FUTURE spending cuts, that isn't what the debt ceiling has anything to do with.

    No time machine=no fix with spending cuts.

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