President Barack Obama speaks about the debt limit in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is demanding that Congress quickly raise the nation's $16.4 trillion debt limit, telling reporters, "we are not a deadbeat nation."
At a White House news conference less than a week before he takes the oath of office for a second term, Obama warned that if the nation's borrowing authority isn't extended, "Social Security benefits and veterans' checks will be delayed."
And he's warning Republicans not to insist on cuts to government spending in exchange for raising the debt limit. He says, "They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the economy." He said he's willing to consider deficit reductions, but that the steps will have to be taken independently from a vote to raise the debt limit.
He said letting the government shut down rather than renewing funding beyond the end of March "will hurt the economy."
In response, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Obama and his allies in Congress need to get serious about spending, and that the debt-limit debate is the perfect time for it.
And House Speaker John Boehner (BAY'-nur) said in a statement, "The American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without reducing government spending at the same time."