Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty said Sunday that Social Security and Medicare needed to be sharply cut but defense spending was off the table.
"I believe strongly that the first responsibility of the United States federal government is to protect this nation and our citizens, so I'm not calling for absolute or real cuts in defense," he told ABC's Christiane Amanpour.
"I think the growth can be slowed down. I think efficiencies can be found within defense. But I think those monies should be plowed back into defense to support it."
The former Minnesota governor added that he doesn't support raising the nation's debt limit.
"I don't think we should raise the debt ceiling. And if the Congress moves in that direction, the president, they better get something really good for it. It better be permanent, and it better be structural, like a balanced budget amendment and like permanent caps and limits on spending that are specific, not just aspirational," he said.
"Is your position that it would not affect the economy of the United States or the credibility of the United States or the creditworthiness of the United States?" Amanpour asked.
"President Obama was setting up this false choice between default and raising the debt ceiling. And at least for a while, you can take away that false choice by ordering the Treasury to pay the obligations to outside creditors first, and there's enough cash flow to do that for quite some time," Pawlenty replied.