(NECN: Alison King) - At his last news conference of his first term, President Obama said America has to pay its bills and that we're not a deadbeat nation.
Obama laid out a bleak picture of delayed Social Security checks and markets going haywire if Congress does not soon raise the nation's $16.4 trillion federal debt.
He said Republicans in Congress have two choices: They can act responsibly and pay America's bills, or they can act irresponsibly, and put America through another economic crisis.
But Republicans said it is Democrats and the president who are not acting responsibly. Allowing the spending problem to go unresolved, they say, is just as troublesome as not lifting the cap.
In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner said, "The American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without reducing government spending at the same time. ... The House will do its job and pass responsible legislation that controls spending … and we will insist that the Democratic majority in Washington do the same."
Tufts political science professor Jeff Berry said people should care because if the debt ceiling is exceeded, interest rates will go up and the amount of money we pay to borrow will go up.
At the end of the news conference, the president was asked to respond to criticism that he doesn't socialize enough, implying that the stalemate in Washington, including the debt ceiling, is due in part to his failure to build relationships with Republicans.
Obama said, “We invite folks from Congress over here all the time. And when they choose to come, I enjoy their company. Sometimes they don't choose to come, and that has to do with the fact that I think they don't consider the optics useful for them politically.”