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President Obama challenged Republicans to deliver on their rhetoric about wanting to deal with the nation’s debt and deficit problems, insisting that “now is the time to deal with these issues.”

In a White House news conference just hours before he’s set to meet again with congressional leaders on the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, Obama warned that if Republicans failed to compromise on a solution, it could further depress the nation’s already struggling economy and could “throw millions of more people out of work.”

The president emphasized that he will not sign a short-term, stop-gap effort to raise the debt ceiling. He instead pressed for a way to solve the problem for a “long stretch of time,” calling on lawmakers from both sides to “step up” and make compromises on an essential issue before 2012 politics gets in the way.

“We might as well do it now. Pull off the Band-Aid. Eat our peas,” Obama said. “If not now, when?”

He called House Speaker John Boehner’s efforts in the negotiations “sincere,” but declined to say whether he believes Boehner can win over members of his own party on a deal. Still, in a thinly disguised dig at Boehner and other GOP leaders, Obama sought to contrast his own leadership on the issue, insisting he’s willing to break with his party to get a deal because it’s the right thing for the country.

“I am prepared to take on significant heat from my party to get something done,” Obama said. He suggested Republicans should do the same “if they mean what they say.”

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