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Obama Calls for Debt Ceiling Increase

President Barack Obama speaks about the debt limit in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Jan. 14, 2013.

U.S. President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to quickly approve an increase in the country's borrowing limit and says he supports "sensible" new gun controls to try to prevent more mass shootings in the country.

Less than a week before he starts his second term, Obama said at a White House news conference Monday that it would be "irresponsible" for his political opponents in Congress to even consider not raising the country's $16.4 trillion borrowing limit in the coming weeks.
"So to even entertain the idea of this happening, of the United States of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It's absurd," he said.
The U.S. has already reached the debt ceiling, but has enough money to continue paying its bills for several weeks.  The president said the borrowing limit needs to be increased, not so that government spending can be boosted, but so the U.S. can meet financial obligations it has already incurred.
"Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more.  All it does is say that America will pay its bills, and we are not a deadbeat nation," he said.

Gun control 

On gun control, the president said he expects to receive a list of "sensible and common sense steps" from his special task force on preventing gun violence. He said he would meet later in the day with Vice President Joe Biden, who chaired the task force, to discuss the proposals.

While he declined to provide specifics, Obama repeated his stance that he believes that stronger background checks, tighter control of high-capacity ammunition clips and an assault weapons ban are all proposals that make sense.

He said members of Congress will have to "examine their consciences" when it comes to voting on new gun control measures. The gun control debate is contentious in the U.S., where gun ownership is enshrined in the Constitution.

Obama's news conference came a month after a man shocked the nation by going on a shooting rampage at a schoolhouse in the northeastern state of Connecticut, leaving 20 children and six adults dead.

Economy

The U.S., with the world's largest economy, has seemingly skidded from one financial crisis to another. Obama, a Democrat, has regularly sparred with his Republican opponents in Congress over spending and the national debt. The Republicans say they are intent on using the debt ceiling debate as a way to force Obama to sharply cut government spending to eventually rein in the country's debt.

Earlier this month, after weeks of negotiations, Congress and the White House reached a last-minute deal to maintain current tax rates for most Americans while allowing them to increase for couples earning more than $450,000 a year. The tax increase affects less than one percent of U.S. workers.

But the early 2013 agreement pushed off key decisions on planned spending cuts in defense and domestic programs until early March, as well as whether to increase the debt ceiling.

The U.S. last raised its debt ceiling in mid-2011, but not before an extensive debate over spending that brought the nation to the brink of defaulting on its financial obligations. With the economic turmoil, one financial services company trimmed the country's top credit rating.

New Cabinet 

Obama has been announcing key second-term appointments, so far all of them white men. But he said Americans should "wait and see" all of his appointments to his administration before they "rush to judgment" on whether his new staff of advisers and Cabinet will lack diversity.

The Obama administration has been criticized recently for not having enough diversity with its Cabinet appointees after a photo of the president meeting with senior advisers in the Oval Office showed that the vast majority of them were white men.

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