WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) - President Barack Obama said the U.S. is poised for a good year if politics don't get in the way.
Speaking at the final news conference of his first term, Obama demanded Monday that Congress raise the federal debt limit quickly, warning that "Social Security benefits and veterans checks will be delayed if they don't" and warning Republicans not to demand concessions in exchange.
"They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the economy,'' he said at the final news conference of his first term.
"The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip. And they better decide quickly because time is running short."
"We are not a deadbeat nation,'' he declared.
Obama opened his news conference with a statement noting that a vote to increase the debt limit "does not authorize more spending. It simply allows the country to pay for spending that Congress has already agreed to. These are bills we've already racked up and we need to pay them.''
Obama said he was willing to consider future deficit cuts, but only if they are done independently from a vote to raise the $16.4 trillion debt limit.
In a blunt rebuttal to Republicans who say they will not agree to any more tax increases, the president said taxes and spending both must be on the table.
He said he is "open to making modest adjustments to programs like Medicare to protect them for future generations,'' and wants to close tax loopholes at the same time.
The president also said he will soon ask Congress to enact new gun legislation in the wake of the shootings a month ago that left 20 elementary students dead in Newtown, Conn.
He said stronger background checks, a meaningful ban on assault weapons and limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines are all ideas he thinks make sense. He said he's not sure how many of those measures can pass Congress.
Facing stiff opposition from the National Rifle Association, he conceded lawmakers may not approve everything he asks for.
"The issue here is not whether or not we believe in the Second Amendment," Obama said. "This issue is are there some sensible steps that we can take to make sure that somebody like the individual in Newtown can't walk into a school and gun down a bunch of children."
Obama is expected to receive a report on Tuesday from Vice President Joe Biden, who has been leading a task force on ways to reduce violence.
The event comes one week before the president's ceremonial swearing-in and inaugural address for a second term.
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