Obama ‘cannot guarantee’ benefits checks will be paid if debt deal isn’t reached

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

President Obama warned Tuesday that retirees might not receive their Social Security checks next month if lawmakers fail to reach an agreement on how to reduce the federal debt.

"I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on Aug. 3rd if we haven't resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it," Obama told CBS's Scott Pelley in an interview set to air tonight on the CBS Evening News.

Roughly $20 billion in Social Security checks are set to be mailed out on Aug. 3--a day after the Treasury Department says the U.S. will begin defaulting on its financial obligations unless the debt ceiling is raised.

But the president cautioned that it's more than just Social Security checks that could be affected. "These are veterans' checks. These are folks on disability," Obama said, according to excerpts released by CBS News. "There are about 70 million checks that go out."

You can watch an excerpt of the interview here, courtesy CBS News.

The president's comments come a day after he warned of dire financial consequences should Republicans and Democrats fail to come to an agreement on raising the debt ceiling and paying down the deficit. In a press conference yesterday, Obama said if Republicans fail to compromise on a debt deal that it could "throw millions of more people out of work."

Obama and congressional leaders are set to meet again later today as the two sides continue to bicker over the debt ceiling and how to shore up the nation's dire fiscal state. The White House is pressing for an agreement by July 22nd--a little over a week before Aug. 2, the date when Treasury officials say the U.S. will hit its debt limit.

The president said Monday he wants a large scale agreement that will tackle both the debt ceiling and deficit reduction until after the 2012 elections. He insisted he will veto any short-term, stop-gap measure aimed at continuing the debate. But Republicans have signaled they won't accept a deal that could result in a tax increase and are now pressing for either a smaller agreement, focusing just on the debt ceiling, or a measure that possibly includes the repeal of Obama's health care plan.

On Tuesday, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said he believes it's unlikely a deal to fix to the nation's deficit problems will be reached until Obama leaves office because the administration has expressed a "fundamental unwillingness" to agree to major spending cuts.

"After years of discussions and months of negotiations, I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office, a real solution is unattainable," McConnell said in a Senate floor speech.

(Screenshot of Obama via CBS News)