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Obama to Congress: 'We Are Not a Deadbeat Nation'

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama says the U.S. economy is "poised for a good year" but that progress could be threatened by political brinksmanship on the nation's debt limit.

"While I'm willing to compromise and find 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," Obama said Monday at a White House news conference.

"We are not a deadbeat nation," he said. "The consequences of us not paying our bills would be disastrous."

Lawmakers have until the end of February to raise the nation's debt limit and address the delayed $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending.

Failure to raise the debt limit would set the stage for a U.S. default on its loan obligations or force immediate cuts to government spending that could threaten hundreds of thousands of federal employees and beneficiaries of government aid, including Social Security recipients and active-duty military personnel.

Republicans have said they plan to use the debate on a debt-limit increase to extract spending cuts from the Obama administration. They note a legislative precedent, including most recently in 2011, of coupling the debt ceiling with deficit-reduction legislation.

“The American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without reducing government spending at the same time. The consequences of failing to increase the debt ceiling are real, but so too are the consequences of allowing our spending problem to go unresolved,” Boehner, R-Ohio, wrote in a statement following the president's remarks Monday. “Without meaningful action, the debt will continue to act as an anchor on our economy, costing American jobs and endangering our children’s future. The House will do its job and pass responsible legislation that controls spending, meets our nation’s obligations and keeps the government running, and we will insist that the Democratic majority in Washington do the same.”

Obama says he will "not negotiate" on an increase to the debt limit, which covers spending obligations that have already been passed into law, insisting that the issue should be independent of a debate on new limits on future spending.

"The financial wellbeing of the American people is not leverage to use," Obama said. "The full faith and credit of the U.S.A. is not a bargaining chip to use."

The White House said the news conference would be Obama's last of his first term, coming six days before the inauguration and at a critical juncture in an ongoing fight with Congress on federal deficits and debt.

It also comes one day before Vice President Joe Biden will present to Obama his task force's recommendations for curbing gun violence in the wake of the deadly Newtown, Conn., shooting.

"They've presented me now with a list of sensible, common-sense steps that can be taken to make sure that the kinds of violence we saw at Newtown doesn't happen again," Obama said.

"I expect to have a fuller presentation later in the week to give people some specifics about what I think we need to do. My starting point is not to worry about the politics. My starting point is to focus on what makes sense, what works," he said.

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