Spin Cycle

01.14.13

Obama Talks Tough on Budget, Guns

The president warned Republicans not to balk at raising the debt ceiling and challenged the NRA on gun control. Howard Kurtz on the timing of his news conference.

President Obama, declaring that “we are not a deadbeat nation,” issued a stern warning to Republicans on Monday that they should not “act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis.”

Obama used the last news conference of his first term to ratchet up pressure on the GOP to raise the debt ceiling next month, despite the party’s threats to balk at such an increase unless the White House and Democrats agree to substantial spending cuts.

To do otherwise, Obama said, “would be a self-inflicted wound on the economy” and raise the specter of Social Security checks being delayed and American troops not getting paid.

The timing of the presser was curious, in that the budget confrontation is more than a month away and Obama delivers his second inaugural speech next Monday. But having said he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling, he seemed determined to lay down a marker that the borrowing limit is “not a bargaining chip” and the failure to raise it would be “disastrous” and could cause financial markets to go “haywire.”

“I am not going to have a monthly or every-three-months conversation about whether or not we pay our bills,” Obama said.

If House Republicans want to shut down the government over budgetary differences, he said, ”that’s their prerogative.”

The president also repeated his call for a ban on assault weapons and stricter background checks for gun purchases, saying that despite congressional opposition, “we’re going to have to come up with answers that set politics aside.” Invoking the Newtown tragedy, he said an individual should not be able “to gun down a bunch of children in a shockingly rapid fashion.” If action can “save one child,” Obama said, then “we should take that step.”

Some of these steps, Obama said, without being specific, “I can accomplish through executive action.”

Clearly alluding to the clout of the NRA, the president said those opposed to reasonable reforms have “a pretty effective way of ginning up fear on the part of gun owners that somehow the federal government is about to take all your guns away.”

Obama defended himself against the perception that his second-term appointments have made the administration more of a boys’ club, saying he has had “as diverse or more diverse a White House and cabinet than any in history” and will build on that record.

The president sounded slightly defensive when asked why he doesn’t socialize more with lawmakers. “I’m a pretty friendly guy and I like a good party,” he insisted.

Obama said he had tried to court Republicans at social functions, but that didn’t stop them from “blasting me for being a big-spending socialist.”

In a rambling answer, he suggested he might socialize more because his girls are getting too old to want to hang out with him as much and he is “getting kind of lonely in this big house.”