Obama digs in heels, refuses to negotiate debt ceiling

Tue Jan 15, 2013 10:44am EST
 
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By Mark Felsenthal and Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Monday rejected any negotiations with Republicans over raising the U.S. borrowing limit, accusing his opponents of trying to extract a ransom for not ruining the economy in the latest fiscal fight.

At a White House news conference called to promote his position on the budget, Obama vowed not to trade cuts in government spending sought by Republicans in exchange for raising the borrowing limit.

"What I will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people," he said.

With an agreement to prevent the economy falling over a "fiscal cliff" barely two weeks old, Washington has already begun skirmishing over a new fiscal issue: the debt ceiling, which fixes a limit on how much the government can borrow.

The United States could default on its debt if Congress does not increase the borrowing limit, a prospect Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned against in separate comments on Monday.

Obama has tangled repeatedly with Congress over budget and spending issues, and on Monday he said Republicans would bear the responsibility for the consequences of a default.

"They can act responsibly, and pay America's bills or they can act irresponsibly, and put America through another economic crisis," he said. "But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy."

Republicans want Obama to cut some spending to rein in the deficit before they agree to raise the debt limit again.   Continued...

 
U.S. President Barack Obama takes questions from reporters during a news conference at the White House in Washington, January 14, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst