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Toomey to Press For Bigger Debt Limit Prioritization Plan in Senate

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Even if the measure is not approved, Republicans hope to score political points by forcing Democrats to vote against protections for popular items. Democrats portray the bill as a largely symbolic promise that sets the stage for a replay of the 2011 debt limit crisis that led to a downgrade of the nation’s credit rating.

Minutes after the House passage of the measure, Reid and Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray of Washington held a news conference to attack the bill and renew a call for budget conference negotiations.

“If that legislation were used in a model government class in the eighth grade it would get an F. So shallow: It would put the full faith and credit of the United States in jeopardy, and they know that,” Reid said.

Murray charged Republicans with “playing games” on the debt limit and said they were “debating how they’re going to create the next crisis that this country is going to have to face down. I just think that’s the wrong approach.”

The House proposal passed with all Republican votes. Democrats portrayed the measure as a guarantee that would protect Chinese investors, who hold a large share of the federal debt, and leave unprotected recipients of a number of government benefits. Eight Republicans, mainly from the party’s moderate wing, sided with Democrats in voting “no.”

In hopes of wooing moderates in both parties, Toomey and his allies include explicit guarantees for military salaries and Social Security. Some Republicans, such as Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida, argue for more guarantees, for example, for national security and Medicare.

Unlike the Toomey measure, the House bill is structured as an investor shield. Some conservatives argued against expanding McClintock’s original bondholder guarantee to include promises of benefit payments to Social Security recipients. With such concerns in mind, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan amended the bill to provide a guarantee for Social Security trust funds, which invest in daily special-issue Treasury bonds that are redeemed at face value.

Although the House bill makes no explicit mention of benefits, Paul N. Van de Water, a senior fellow for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank, said it would ensure the mailing of Social Security checks.

“I don’t see why any administration would interpret it differently,” Van de Water said.

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