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Obama Warns Social Security Checks at Risk in Debt Limit Debate

Alex Wong/Getty Images
In his final news conference of his first term, Obama pushed Congress to raise the debt ceiling, saying a delay could push the nation into another recession.

President Barack Obama warned Monday that failure to quickly raise the federal debt ceiling would “wreck” the economy and hold up Social Security and veterans’ benefits.

Obama also said he would outline a series of gun violence proposals later this week after getting a report from Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and he said that there would be executive actions as well as proposals for legislation, such as an assault weapons ban and restrictions on large ammunition magazines.

But on the debt limit, Obama resurrected a warning he has used before as to how Congress’ failure would impact everyday Americans.

“If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America’s bills on time, Social Security checks and veterans benefits will be delayed,” Obama said at the last press conference of his first term.

“We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small-business owners. Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialists who track down loose nuclear materials wouldn’t get their paychecks,” he said.

The threat is aimed at upping the pressure on Congress to act or to own the political consequences.

Obama said there is no alternative to Congress authorizing more borrowing to pay the nation’s bills. He dismissed a proposal from congressional Democrats who suggested the president should cite the 14th Amendment to ignore the debt ceiling.

“There are no magic tricks here. There are no loopholes. There are no, you know, easy outs,” he said.

Obama warned of a potential new recession that would actually increase the deficit and borrowing costs across the entire economy.

“It’s absurd,” the president said.

He said repeatedly that he would be happy to talk about deficit reduction with Republicans, but not in the context of raising the debt ceiling.

“I’m happy to have that conversation. What I will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people — the threat that unless we get our way, unless you gut Medicare or Medicaid, or, you know, otherwise slash things that the American people don’t believe should be slashed, that we’re going to threaten to wreck the entire economy,” he said.

The president said he was convinced of the need to stop the cycle of hostage-taking now, at the end of his first term, lest it become business as usual for the rest of his tenure and for future presidents.

“We’ve got to break the habit of negotiating through crisis over and over again,” he said.

Republican leaders didn’t seem phased by Obama’s tough stance.

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