U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated Saturday that she is "out of politics" and assured a Singaporean audience that Congress is committed to avoiding year-end "fiscal cliff" tax increases and spending cuts that could plunge the economy into recession.
Clinton told business leaders, diplomats and students in a speech at Singapore Management University that she is hearing world leaders' concerns about how the United States might resolve its debt crisis and its international ramifications.
"Now I'm out of politics, but let me assure you that for all the difference between the political parties in my country, we are united in our commitment to protect American leadership and bolster our national security," Clinton said.
"Reaching a meaningful budget deal is critical to both," she added.
Clinton's reference to herself as being outside politics brought laughs from the audience. Clinton has said she doesn't want to serve another four years as secretary of state, and has already ruled out another presidential bid, even though speculation of a candidacy continues.
Congressional leaders from both parties voiced fresh optimism Friday after meeting with newly re-elected President Barack Obama about agreeing to a multitrillion-dollar deficit-reduction plan that can take the place of the across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts slated to take effect Jan. 1.
Clinton said Saturday that when she traveled through Asia last summer at the height of the political crisis over the American deficit, regional leaders asked her whether Congress would allow the United States to default on its debt.
"Let's be clear — the full faith and credit of the United States should never be in question," she said.
Singapore is the first leg of an Asian tour for Clinton that will also see her join Obama in Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia.