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Republican introduces bill to prioritize debt in case of default

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Lawmakers in Washington are walking a tightrope with the Aug. 2 deadline for increasing the U.S. debt ceiling only five days away. With the clock ticking and congressional members concerned an agreement may not be reached, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) introduced legislation that would force the Treasury Department to prioritize the country's financial obligations. The bill — "Ensuring the Full Faith and Credit of the United States and Protecting America's Seniors and Soldiers Act" — would force the Treasury to prioritize payments on U.S. debts, making it imperative three specific obligations are paid first. Those obligations include interest on the nation's debt, Social Security payments and military payroll. According to the bill, the nation owes $29 billion in interest on its debt next month, as well as $2.9 billion in military pay and $49.2 billion in Social Security payouts. Total revenue for the month is about $172.4 billion. "These obligations should be our priority, and there is more than enough cash flow to cover each of these payments," said Sen. Toomey. "I am extremely frustrated with the disingenuous use of language coming from the administration. Over and over we have heard the word 'default.' The fact of the matter is we have the cash flow available to pay interest on debt if the limit is reached. Paying interest is not default." More than 30 Republicans signed Sen. Toomey's bill to brace for the worst-case scenario. Tim Ryan, chief executive officer of the  Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, released a commentary this week urging Congress to raise the debt ceiling, saying a default would send interest rates soaring. Other analysts, including Christopher Whalen with Institutional Risk Analytics, downplayed the risks saying creditors would just have to be patient in the situation of a default. Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service (MCO) put the country's triple-A sovereign credit rating on negative ratings watch earlier this month. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner issued an Aug. 2 deadline for lawmakers to agree on changes to the current $14.29 trillion limit to avoid a default by the country on its debt obligations. Write to Kerri Panchuk.

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