Obama: Seniors Could Be Hurt Without Debt Deal
(Reuters) - President Barack Obama raised the stakes in the third straight day of budget talks on Tuesday by warning that senior citizens and veterans may suffer first if the debt ceiling is not raised by August 2.
The comments came as top Republicans toughened their stance in the deficit reduction talks.
Hours before heading to the White House, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said a "real solution" to the U.S. debt problem was unlikely while Obama was in office.
As politicians sparred, U.S. business leaders pressed Obama and congressional leaders to act swiftly to raise the $14.3 trillion U.S. debt ceiling or risk derailing a sputtering economic recovery and endangering the global financial system.
Obama and top lawmakers from both parties were due to meet at the White House at 3:45 p.m.
Obama said in an interview with U.S. television network CBS that checks to recipients of the Social Security retirement program may not go out in early August if he and congressional leaders do not agree on a debt deal.
"I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven't resolved this issue," Obama said, according to excerpts of the interview released before its broadcast.
"Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it," Obama said. He said veterans checks and disability benefits could also be affected without a deal.
Despite months of talks, Republican and Democratic leaders were still at an impasse over a deficit reduction deal that would clear the way for Congress to raise the debt ceiling.
Republicans have balked at raising the debt limit without steep spending cuts, while Democrats say new tax revenues need to be part of any deal. Republicans oppose any increase in taxes which they say would hurt the economy.
"I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office a real solution is probably unattainable," McConnell said in a hard-hitting speech on the Senate floor.
But he said Republicans would ensure the government does not default on August 2, when the Treasury Department has warned it will run out of money to pay the country's bills.
Failure to seal a deal by August 2 could spook investors, causing U.S. interest rates to surge and stock prices to plummet, and could put the United States at risk of another recession, Treasury officials and private economists have warned. >>>CLICK HERE TO READ MORE
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