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Obama flexes his leverage on debt, immigration

Charles Babington, Associated Press

President Barack Obama, followed by Vice President Joe Biden, arrives in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, to talk about proposals to reduce gun violence. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is assembling an ambitious second-term agenda, pushing aggressively where he thinks he has political leverage but moving more cautiously on issues where he has less control.

Obama is hiking pressure on congressional Republicans on the debt ceiling and immigration, two big issues in which public sentiment and political risks seem to favor him.

He is gambling that Republicans will yield to fears of a ferocious public backlash if they leave the government unable to pay its bills in their push for spending cuts. But it's a risk for him. Unresolved brinkmanship over the debt ceiling could lead to an economic calamity that would damage Obama's second term and eventual legacy — not to mention Americans' lives.