Obama Tells Congress to Pay Its Bills
In the final press conference of his first term, President Obama focused almost entirely on the debt ceiling fight and gun control, accusing Congress of collecting "ransom" while saying that gun proposals including an assault weapons ban "make sense."
President Obama delivered the final press conference of his first term today, focusing almost entirely on the debt ceiling fight and gun control. While declining to offer any new details on either front during the hour-long Q&A (that did not feature very many Qs), nor giving any hint as to what he might do should Congress fail to raise the debt ceiling, the president reiterated his earlier comments that responsibility lies with Congress to pay for the spending that it has already authorized. "They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy," he said. President Obama repeated several times some version of the line that the United States is not "a deadbeat nation" and must pay its bills, making that the dominant message of the midday press conference, his first major one since just after Election Day.
On gun control, the president said he believes that an assault weapons ban, stronger background checks, and limits on magazine clips are proposals that he believes "make sense" in an ongoing effort to curb gun violence, but added that he's not sure if any of the proposals will actually make it through Congress. He said he expected to brief the nation on Vice President Biden's proposals later in the week.
The press conference ended with an odd question about whether the president is social enough. His response was that he's very friendly to Congresspeople ("I like a good party"), but that ultimately it doesn't help get deals done, because those are who are friendliest to him often get attacked by their own party. Though he hopes that changes as his daughters are getting older and "I’m getting kind of lonely in this big house."
You can read more details on the questions and our earlier updates below. Or you can read the full transcript at The Washington Post.
President Obama is about to hold his final Q&A session with the media before his second inauguration next week. You can watch live video of the press conference below, but we will also be updating below with highlights as it is happening. It's now slated to start around 11:30 a.m. Eastern.
12:31 p.m.: The press conference ends with a long digression about how he doesn't think being friends with people actually helps accomplish much, saying policy difference matter, "whether I am the life of the party or a stick in the mud." The end.
12:25 p.m.: A: "Everyone should wait until they've seen all my appointment before they rush to judgement." About friendliness and back patting: "I like a good party." Says that being friendly with Congresspeople didn't help get deals done in the past.
12:23 p.m.: Q: Can you address two criticisms about your presidency: You aren't social enough, and your cabinet isn't diverse enough.
12:17 p.m.: Q: Are you prepared to accept government shutdown and who would get the blame? A: Responsibility is on Congress to pay the bills. If they want to shut down the government "that's their prerogative."
12:13 p.m.: A: The difference is we've already made cuts to the budget. Says he didn't cave on taxes before, but negotiated a deal to avert the fiscal cliff. "We've got to break the habit of negotiating through crisis over and over again." Says the start of his second term is a good place to start.
12:11 p.m.: Q: Why should Republicans think you won't back down on negotiating?
12:09 p.m.: A: "We've seen that those who oppose common sense measure gin up fear among gun owners" ... Sportsman and hunters "don't have anything to worry about." "It would be hard to argue that gun owners have had their rights infringed."
12:06 p.m.: Q: Back to gun control. Question is about what executive measure he can take, and what does he think about people lining up to buy guns?
12:04 p.m.: A: "I don't think anyone would consider my position unreasonable. I'm not going to have monthly conversation of whether we will pay our bills."
12:01 p.m.: Q from Major Garrett of CBS: Should American people be worried that no one is negotiating? He also brings up Obama's vote against raising the debt ceiling when he was a Senator.
12:00 p.m.: Obama (still answering Chuck Todd's question): "You don't go out to dinner and eat all you want and then leave without paying the check."
11:52 a.m.: A: "If Congress want to put the responsibility [to raise the debt ceiling] on me, I'm happy to take it." Obama repeats that the simple "solution" is they raise the debt ceiling, so "we can pay our bills." "We are not a deadbeat nation."
11:51 a.m.: Question 2 comes from NBC's Chuck Todd. Q: Is there a Plan B involving executive action to avoid the debt ceiling.
11:47 a.m.: New AP White House reporter Julie Pace get the first question; opens with gun violence question. Q: How hard will you push for assault weapons ban? A: President avoids specifics, saying they will be announced later this week. "We will have to come up with answers that set politics aside." He does think we need stronger background checks, bans on large magazines, and an assault weapons ban, but doesn't know if they will pass.
11:45 a.m.: Obama: "The full faith and credit of the United States is not a bargaining chip."
11:43 a.m.: Our first "I want to be clear" ... "The debt ceiling does not authorize more spending. It's about paying for spending that's already been agreed to."
11:41 a.m.: The President opens with a statement about deficit reduction, stating he's open to reductions in some entitlement programs, combined with new revenues from closing tax loopholes. "Turns out the American people agree with me."
11:35 a.m.: Two minute warning!
The main topic is likely to be the debt ceiling, as it is expected that President Obama will once again call on Congress to raise the limit without putting up a fight, even as some members are threatening a government shutdown. Other topics on the agenda should include gun control (the recommendations from Vice President's Joe Biden special committee are expected Tuesday); his new cabinet appointments (specifically the possible nomination fights for Chuck Hagel and Jack Lew); and a possible early look ahead to next month's State of the Union and the President's second-term agenda, maybe including immigration reform.
There may even bee a few surprises, although we hope no one asks about Star Wars.
This'll be Pres Obama's 21st formal, solo, full-scale WH news conference out of 108 press availabilities since taking office.— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) January 14, 2013