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Obama: We are not a deadbeat nation

Published On: Jan 30 2013 03:56:41 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 14 2013 05:34:42 PM EST
Obama 2 news conference, 1-14-13

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

(CNN) -

President Barack Obama struck a combative tone during a surprise news conference Monday, attacking Republicans in Congress for threatening to shut down the government over the debt ceiling battle.

"We are not a deadbeat nation," Obama said during a nearly hourlong briefing from the East Room of the White House. He called it "absurd" for the federal government not to pay "bills that have already been racked up."

Obama, however, said what he will not do is "negotiate with a gun at the head of the American people."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly fired back.

"The president and his allies need to get serious about spending, and the debt-limit debate is the perfect time for it," he said in a statement.

Other topics the president addressed during the news conference was the ongoing debate over gun control and the recent uproar over a lack of women in his second term cabinet.

The gun lobby is "ginning up" fears the federal government will use the Newtown shooting tragedy, exactly one month ago, to seize Americans' guns, Obama said.

At least part of the frenzy is little more than marketing, the president inferred.

"It's certainly good for business he said," responding to a question about a spike in weapons sales and applications for background checks following the Connecticut massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 26 people, 20 of them children.

"Part of the challenge we confront is that even the slightest hint of some sensible, responsible legislation in this area fans this notion that somehow, 'here it comes, everybody's guns are going to be taken away,'" Obama said.

And his response to critics who have questioned why his second-term cabinet nominees have all been white males?

Just wait and see.

"I would just suggest that everybody kind of wait until they've seen all my appointments, who is in the White House staff and who is in my cabinet, before they rush to judgment," Obama said.

Since winning re-election in November, Obama has made four high-profile nominations for posts in his cabinet, including tapping Sen. John Kerry for secretary of state. If confirmed, he'll replace Hillary Clinton, the highest profile woman in Obama's administration.