The "National Debt Clock" in New York City (file photo)
The "National Debt Clock" in New York City (file photo)

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to explain Wednesday how he would reduce the massive U.S. budget deficit, something Republicans say he must do before they will let the government borrow more money to finance that deficit.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says Obama's speech will demonstrate a commitment to deficit reduction through "balanced" and "bipartisan" proposals for addressing the long-term causes of U.S. public debt. The president is due to make the address at George Washington University in Washington.

White House advisor David Plouffe said Sunday that Obama is "absolutely firm" about the need to cut government spending, but wants to make sure that any cuts do not hurt educational programs that help Americans to compete economically with developing nations. He also said Obama wants to keep investing in infrastructure and research and development.

Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, say Obama must agree to significant long-term spending cuts in return for their support of a measure to raise the limit on government borrowing to pay for future budget deficits.

House Speaker John Boehner has said the chamber will not approve an increase in the debt ceiling unless such spending cuts are attached to the measure. The U.S. government is expected to reach the congressionally-mandated debt ceiling in coming weeks and can only borrow beyond that point with congressional approval.

Failure to raise the debt limit could force the United States to default on interest payments on loans. Much of the debt is held by foreign governments such as China. Spokesman Carney says defaulting on loans would have an "Armageddon-like" impact on the slowly recovering U.S. economy.

The White House spokesman says congressional approval of a debt ceiling increase is "important" to the health of the U.S. and global economies and should not be "held hostage" to disputes about spending cuts. But, he says Obama is willing to work with lawmakers on reducing the budget deficit "concurrently" with the process of raising the debt limit.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers agreed late Friday to cut $38.5 billion in spending from the current fiscal year's budget, a deal that narrowly averted a government shutdown that would have begun the following day. The spending cuts would only slightly reduce a budget deficit that is expected to hit $1.5 trillion this year.

Friday's agreement keeps the government funded until April 15.

The House is to vote as early as Wednesday on funding the government for the remainder of the fiscal year, through September 30.  The Democratic-controlled Senate is to vote on the measure later in the week.

Some Republican and Democratic lawmakers oppose the deal, saying it cuts too little or too much spending respectively, but they are not expected to have enough votes to block the measure.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.