Nat'l Debt, Gov't Spending Top Priority for 2011

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President Barack Obama is reportedly so pleased with his White House Cabinet, that he's not planning any big changes there.

"I think we've had a very capable and good cabinet that has helped move the president's agenda forward," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.

"I think there's obviously a lot that has to be done at Treasury to implement financial reform, at HHS to implement health care reform. And I think we have a very talented team," he added.

Gridlock Inevitable?

However, with Republicans set to take over the House, the president's agenda isn't likely to make much progress -- including Obamacare. Yet with Democrats still in control of the Senate and White House, Republicans probably won't have enough power to outright repeal Obamacare or any other legislation, no matter how much they want to.

Obama, meanwhile, has pointed to the flurry of legislation passed in the lame-duck session of Congress as evident that "we are not doomed to endless gridlock."

The area where Obama and GOP lawmakers can least afford partisan gridlock on the nation's debt.

With yearly budget deficits exceeding $1 trillion, more analysts than ever state the country's debt is threatening to crush the economy.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., warned if Americans don't stop the binge-spending, they'll face what he calls "apocalyptic pain," including 15 to 18 percent unemployment.

"I think within three to four years, if we have not done the critical changes that we have to make, I think the confidence in our economy and in our currency will be undermined significantly," Coburn said on "Fox News Sunday."

He added that America could well go the way of debt-crushed Greece and Ireland.

"We're living off our future, and everybody else in the world that's doing that today is getting punished," he said.

A Delicate Balancing Act

With the 2012 elections looming and the debt threatening the future of the economy, the president is facing a delicate balancing act.

He must determine how much can he defend his expensive health care program - and other government spending - without alienating voters who want spending cut. Obama must also decide how much can he afford to further anger his liberal base that doesn't want cuts.

"The administration is really banking on the fact the unemployment numbers will be down significantly when Obama is up for reelection," Becky Thiess of the Economic Policy Institute said.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.