Republicans, who will take control of the House of Representatives this week, are demanding spending cuts to curb the $1.3 trillion budget deficit and several have said they would oppose a higher debt ceiling if Obama does not agree to a range of painful cuts.
White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee accused Republicans of "playing chicken" with the nation's financial credibility.
"This is not a game. You know, the debt ceiling ... is not something to toy with," Goolsbee told the ABC News program "This Week." "If we hit the debt ceiling, that's ... essentially defaulting on our obligations, which is totally unprecedented in American history."