For the first time in public, President Obama has warned that crucial benefits for retirees, veterans, and disabled people might not go out early next month if Republicans don’t relent in the debt limit fight.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Battle Over The Budget At The White House]
“This is not just a matter of Social Security checks,” Obama told CBS News in an interview that will air Tuesday night. “These are veteran’s checks, these are folks on disability and their checks. There are about 70 million checks that go out each month. I can not guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven’t resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.”
If you were wondering when President Obama would clarify the stakes and increase the pressure on Republicans to drop their ideological rigidity, consider it upped.
When asked about Obama’s comments during his Tuesday briefing with reporters, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has talked about this issue before and described the kinds of decisions of which government services to pay for as being “kind of a Sophie’s choice decision.”
“We no longer have authority to borrow money, if we do not raise the debt ceiling,” he said. “That fact is one of the reasons we must take action. If we lose authority to borrow money…that would entail a kind of Sophie’s choice decision and that will entail deciding what bills you can pay.”
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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.