CHICAGO — President Barack Obama, insisting a politically divided government will not risk tanking the world economy, says Congress will once again raise the amount of debt the country can pile up to ensure it has money to pay its bills. For the first time, though, he signaled that he will have to go along with more spending cuts to ensure a deal with Republicans.
In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, the president also spoke in his most confident terms yet that voters will reward him with another four years in the White House for his work to turn around the economy. Speaking from his hometown and the site of his newly launched re-election bid, Obama said he thinks voters will determine he is the best prepared person "to finish the job."
On America's wars, he said that a significant number of troops would begin coming home from Afghanistan in July despite many expectations that the withdrawal would be modest. He said the U.S. would not expand its military role to end a bloody stalemate in Libya but insisted that Moammar Gadhafi would, in time, be forced from power.
Appearing rejuvenated from spending time and raising some political cash in his hometown, Obama was just a week removed from a marathon showdown with House Republicans that almost led to a government shutdown. He signed the budget bill to avoid the embarrassing stoppage of government services when he got back to the White House later on Friday.
As Washington's political leaders scramble to show leadership on the suddenly consuming debt debate, Obama made sure in the interview to promote his long-term plan to cut trillions of dollars as the fairer, more compassionate alternative to a Republican plan that surged to party-line passage Friday afternoon in the House. Yet it was his comments on the debt limit — an issue the White House has labored to keep separate from the broader discussion on how to rein in spending — that altered the course of the conversation.