Although President Barack Obama wants Congress to lift the debt ceiling and pass laws to curb gun violence, none of that will occur if he can't negotiate with federal lawmakers.
Mr. Obama keyed on both issues at his press conference Monday. He promised to consider the gun-control recommendations of Vice President Joe Biden's panel and to release his own proposals for executive and congressional action this week. Mr. Obama must strike now to fix this problem, before the public forgets the horror of the classroom shootings in Newtown, Conn., last month.
The issue of the national debt, which stands at $16.5 trillion, is more complex. Some Republicans in Congress have said they will agree to raise the debt limit only to the degree that spending is reduced.
The problem is, as Mr. Obama pointed out, that spending already authorized by the Congress will push the debt beyond its limit next month, making payment of the government's bills impossible. A government default would have disastrous results for America's credit rating, not to mention the health of the economy.
The president has vowed not to negotiate with Congress on this, saying it would put Washington politics in the way of America's progress. The Republicans say they see no other way to restrain spending and cut the debt.
Mr. Obama is correct that lifting the debt ceiling is separate from setting appropriate spending levels for the military, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs. Even so, Americans don't want the debt to keep going up. They want the White House and the Congress to make rational decisions about government spending, without wrecking the economy in the meantime by refusing to pay the government's bills.
This latest impasse is an appalling example of Washington irresponsibility, only 10 weeks after an election. The national debt limit must be raised, then decisions must be made to cut spending, without delay. Enough is enough.