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WH to Congress: Don't use debt limit to hold up economy

Ahead of a series of economic speeches President Obama plans to deliver this week, the White House on Monday warned Congress that it can't hold up the economy by once again threatening to let the nation default on its loans.

"I think that the president believes that Republican leaders in general and Republicans in general do not want to see the nation go down that path again," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. "But it requires leadership to ensure that minorities of minorities or -- minorities of majorities -- don't bring about an unforeseen result. But this is up to Congress to resolve. Again, it is not something that should be negotiated. That is the responsibility of Congress to pay the bills that it's already racked up."

The federal government is expected to hit its borrowing limit sometime this fall -- the ceiling was expected to be hit a few months earlier, but shrinking deficits have delayed it.

While the White House has repeatedly said it won't negotiate over raising the debt limit, Carney said Monday that the administration has been engaging with lawmakers from both parties on such issues. "We're still hopeful that we can reach an agreement with Republicans in Congress that prevents that kind of problem that we saw, again, in the summer of 2011 that represented the worst kind of self-inflicted wound by Washington on the American economy," he said, referring to the 2011 debt limit showdown.

Congress' work on a 2014 budget has been held up by the impending debt limit issue. Even though both the House and the Senate have passed budgets, Senate Republicans are refusing to engage in the process to reconcile the two budgets until they're assured that a debt limit increase is not part of the budget deal.

On MSNBC on Monday morning, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said that he doesn't trust House Republicans to deal with the issue. "I disagreed with how [the House] handled the debt ceiling increase last time," he said. "I'm not convinced they'll handle it right this time without us all being at the table."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, meanwhile, said last week that he hopes to see Congress wrap up its work on immigration reform before it has to address the debt ceiling.

Carney said that the White House takes Republican leaders "at their word" when they say they are not interested in letting the nation default on its debt. "The glee with which some members of the Republican Party approached default was disturbing, I think, to a lot of people out in the country," he said. "And the consequences of even that flirtation with default were profound."

The president's economic remarks this week, meanwhile, will look at more long-term issues.

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