Obama says debt ceiling impasse threatens fed pay

“We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners,” Obama said at a Monday press conference. “We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners,” Obama said at a Monday press conference. Carolyn Kaster/AP

President Obama on Monday said federal paychecks are at risk if the debt ceiling is not raised and the government defaults on its obligations.

“We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners,” Obama said during a press conference with reporters. “Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialists who track down loose nuclear material wouldn’t get their paychecks.”

He also said Social Security checks and veterans’ benefits would be delayed if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling and refuses to “pay America’s bills on time.”

The government hit its $16.4 trillion debt limit in December, but has about two months of wiggle room before a default occurs in February or early March. Obama said Monday he will not negotiate with House Republicans over raising the debt ceiling, emphasizing he is willing to compromise over deficit reduction but not by using the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip.

“Ultimately, Congress makes the decisions about whether or not we spend money and whether or not we keep this government open,” the president said. “And if the Republicans in Congress have made a decision that they want to shut down the government in order to get their way then they have the votes at least in the House of Representatives, probably, to do that.”

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