In News Conference, Obama Calls For Raising Debt Ceiling

On Monday, President Obama repeated his call to Congress to raise the U.S. Treasury's borrowing limit.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

I'm David Greene. We'll begin NPR's business news with a warning from President Obama.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The debt ceiling is not a question of authorizing more spending. Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize more spending. It simply allows the country to pay for spending that Congress has already committed to. These are bills that have already been racked up. And we need to pay them. So while I'm willing to compromise and find a common ground over how to reduce our deficits, America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they've already racked up.

GREENE: That is President Obama just moments ago at the final news conference of his first term. He repeated his call on Congress to raise the U.S. Treasury's borrowing limit. And we've brought in NPR's Brian Naylor to help us understand this. And, Brian, President Obama said it would be irresponsible and absurd for Congress to not raise the debt ceiling. It would be a self-inflicted wound on the economy. Why these dire warnings?

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Well, David, the president feels that unless the debt ceiling is raised by Congress, terrible things can happen to the economy. We could be back into a recession, the investors abroad will see the U.S. as no longer a safe bet. And also, more sort of day-to-day worries about whether Social Security checks will go out, whether the Armed Forces service members will be paid. All kinds of bad things can happen, the president is saying.

I think what he is trying to do is to frame this argument. He's been saying for some time now he's not going to negotiate on this issue. He said today that Congress will not collect a ransom in order to have the ability to raise the debt ceiling. So he's trying to paint a picture of what might happen unless this does occur.

GREENE: And we should say that the Republicans want to tie any increase in the debt ceiling to new cuts, more cuts in spending, right?

NAYLOR: That's right.

GREENE: NPR's Brian Naylor. Thanks so much for joining us.

NAYLOR: All right, David. Thank you.

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