Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, offered President Obama simple advice on the economy: "Get serious."
Mr. McConnell's comments followed a White House news conference Monday, during which the president said the U.S. economy was "poised for a good year," despite the failure of Congress to so far raise the debt ceiling.
"I'm willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficits," Mr. Obama said, according to an ABC News report. "[But] America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they've already racked up."
Mr. McConnell's reaction was abrupt.
"The president and his allies need to get serious about spending, and the debt-limit debate is the perfect time for it," he said.
The level of U.S. debt is nearly $16.5 trillion. Conservatives in Congress say they will not lift the debt ceiling absent a dollar-for-dollar spending reduction agreement. To that, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said a fiscal collapse is forthcoming, in that the U.S. would default on its responsibilities without an increase in the ceiling amount.
"If Congress does not act to extend borrowing authority," Mr. Geithner said, in Monday remarks, about the fate of Social Security, military pay and income tax refunds, "all these payments would be at risk."
Mr. Geithner predicted the collapse to come between mid-February and early March.
Several House Republicans, meanwhile, are planning their own drastic measures to compel cuts in spending.
"I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we're serious," House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state told Politico. "We always talk about whether or not we're going to kick the can down the road. I think the mood is that we've come to the end of the road."
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Republicans do not want to default. But "we are not going to give the president a limitless credit care," he said, in a media report.
• Various media reports contributed to this story.