Federal employees and military service members will not get paid if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, President Obama said Monday.
The government also would not be able to honor its contracts with small-business owners, and Social Security checks and benefits for veterans would be delayed, Obama said during a news conference.
Obama reiterated his stance that he will not negotiate with Republicans — who are demanding spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.
“We are not a deadbeat nation,” Obama said. “Republicans in Congress have two choices here. They can act responsibly and pay America’s bills, or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy.”
The federal government reached its debt limit Dec. 31, but Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said last month he could finagle another two months or so by taking so-called “extraordinary measures” before the debt ceiling would have to be raised. That implied Congress had more time to act and the government could keep running as-is until the end of February. However, the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank estimates the government could run out of money as early as Feb. 15.
Obama on Monday also appeared to dare House Republicans to shut down the government over the debt ceiling, as some GOP leaders have threatened.
“If the House Republicans … want to shut down the government to see if they can get their way on [deficit reduction], that’s their prerogative,” Obama said.
If Congress doesn’t want to raise the debt ceiling, Obama said, they should give him the authority to raise the limit on his own.
But the government’s current situation of one fiscal crisis after another is untenable, and must stop, Obama said.
“That’s not a credible way to run this government,” Obama said. “We’ve got to stop lurching from crisis to crisis to crisis when there’s this clear path ahead of us that simply requires some discipline, some responsibility, and some compromise.”