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WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack 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 insist on 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.
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. Facing stiff opposition from the National Rifle Association, he conceded lawmakers may not approve everything he asks for.
Among the proposals under consideration are a ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Obama said he would unveil his proposals next week. He was meeting after his news conference with Vice President Joe Biden, his point man in producing gun control measures to present to Congress.
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.