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Obama urged to act, avoid default

– Senate Democratic leaders have urged President Obama to take any steps he can to pay U.S. financial obligations if congressional Republicans don’t support a debt-limit increase that Democrats deem acceptable.

In a letter to Obama on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and three other Democratic leaders said Obama “must be willing to take any lawful steps to ensure that America does not break its promises and trigger a global economic crisis – without congressional approval, if necessary.”

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, both Republicans, have said they will seek substantial spending cuts in exchange for any debt-ceiling increase.

Boehner has said cuts must match or exceed the amount the debt ceiling is raised.

“The president may not want to have a fight about government spending over the next few months, but it’s the fight he is going to have, because it’s a debate the country needs,” McConnell said last week on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Obama must act on his own to prevent default “in the event that Republicans make good on their threat by failing to act, or by moving unilaterally to pass a debt-limit extension only as part of unbalanced or unreasonable legislation,” Reid and the other Democrats wrote.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said earlier the administration is “not going to negotiate” on the debt limit. He said Obama won’t send aides or Vice President Biden to Capitol Hill to negotiate with Republicans, who are demanding at least a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar that the debt ceiling is raised.

Obama also won’t summon congressional leaders to discuss a debt-ceiling deal, Carney said.

The U.S. government reached the statutory limit Dec. 31, and the Treasury Department began using extraordinary measures to finance the government. It will exhaust that avenue as early as mid-February, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“We believe that you must make clear that you will never allow our nation’s economy and reputation to be held hostage,” Reid and Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Charles Schumer of New York and Patty Murray of Washington said in the letter.

“We support your view that an extension of the debt limit is not something for which Democrats should have to negotiate.”

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