Bill would force Obama to pay Social Security, military if US defaults

Tea Party conservatives hope to make a push on the House floor to force President Obama to avoid a national default if Congress fails to raise the debt limit.

Members of the Senate Tea Party Caucus have met with House freshmen to discuss a plan to pressure Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring the Full Faith and Credit Act to the floor.

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The legislation would direct the president to prioritize federal payments to the nation’s creditors, Social Security recipients and soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The bill has been revised since it was introduced earlier this year. The previous version simply required the Treasury Department to pay the principal and interest on the debt held by the public over other obligations incurred by the federal government.

The challenge for conservatives is to persuade Boehner to bring it up for a vote in the 10 days remaining before the Aug. 2 deadline.

“We have a bill that directs by law the president to pay the interest on the debt, pay Social Security checks and pay soldiers’ salaries. We’ve been talking with the House freshmen to see if they will force a vote on that next week,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a member of the Senate Tea Party Caucus.

“There are at least 100 members of the caucus that are in favor of it — they have to just convince their leadership it’s a good idea,” he said of the House Republican conference. 

A House GOP aide confirmed that conservatives in the lower chamber are mulling the move.

“We’re certainly looking at the option of moving forward on that front,” said Brian Straessle, communications director of the House Republican Study Committee.

Obama has warned seniors that the federal government may not be able to disburse Social Security payments on Aug. 3 if Congress cannot agree to raise the debt limit.

"I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3 if we haven't resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it," Obama said earlier this month.

Republican strategists worry this could quickly turn public opinion against the GOP.

“Democrats have the leverage if we have to pay the Saudi royal family the money we owe them and Granny doesn’t get her check,” a Senate Republican aide told The Hill earlier this month.

Even though public polling shows that a majority of people oppose raising the debt limit, Republican Senate leaders fear Democrats would quickly gain leverage in the event of a national default.

Conservatives want to pre-empt that reverse by forcing Obama to continue payments to seniors and soldiers. They worry if those two constituencies were harmed by a default, it would prove disastrous politically.

“The next step is that the president should take default off the table. He should tell the American people that he’ll pay the interest on the debt no matter whether there’s a deal by Aug. 2 or not,” Paul said. 

“He should also quit threatening the seniors, tell the seniors they will get their checks,” he said of Obama.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has argued, however, that if Congress does not raise the debt limit and the administration continues to pay interest on the debt, Social Security recipients, military forces overseas and most other government services would come to a halt. He said this would leave Federal Aviation Administration towers, FBI offices and border control checkpoints unmanned. 

Senate conservatives are also pushing their Tea Party-affiliated colleagues in the House to make a new push on the “cut, cap and balance” legislation that was defeated in the Senate Friday.

Senators voted 51 to 46 to table the legislation, which would have required Congress to pass a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, before raising the debt limit.

Senate Tea Party members want to reconsider it and believe they would have a better chance of getting another vote if the House passed the Senate’s version of the "cut, cap and balance" bill, according to a GOP aide.

These conservative senators believe their leadership should have made more of a concerted effort to push the bill, which would have cut $111 billion from the federal budget in fiscal year 2012 and caped spending at 19.9 percent of gross domestic product by 2021. 

GOP leadership aides, however, argue that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pushed for three days of debate on the bill, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) then cut short.

McConnell said the debate showed Senate Republicans strongly supported a balanced-budget amendment.

“I want to thank every American who’s spoken out in favor of the 'cut, cap, and balance' plan,” he said on the floor Friday. “Today the American people will now know where we stand.”