Obama tells Republicans not to use debt talks as a weapon

City A.M. Reporter
PRESIDENT Barack Obama bluntly warned Republicans yesterday that he would not engage in another debt ceiling standoff and predicted a “fiscal cliff” deal could be reached in a week if his opponents would compromise on taxes.

Obama, speaking to the Business Roundtable group of chief executives, said any suggestion that Republicans would have more leverage next year to extract concessions from the White House by threatening to let the United States default was a “bad strategy” for them and for the country.

A standoff between the White House and congressional Republicans in 2011 brought the country perilously close to defaulting on its debt and resulted in an embarrassing debt rating downgrade for the United States.

“I want to send a very clear message to people here: We are not going to play that game next year,” Obama told the CEOs.

“If Congress in any way suggests that they’re going to tie negotiations to debt ceiling votes and take us to the brink of default once again as part of a budget negotiation -- which, by the way, we had never done in our history until we did it last year -- I will not play that game. Because we’ve got to break that habit before it starts.”

The statutory ceiling on U.S. Treasury borrowing is $16.4 trillion. The nation is expected to hit the legal limit near the year’s end, although it can tap emergency measures to stave off a default and keep the government running into early 2013. If Congress fails to raise the borrowing cap, analysts expect the Treasury would run out of options to avoid a default sometime in the latter half of February.

Obama insists that tax rates be raised on the wealthiest Americans as part of a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.