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The New York Times has an article about how the Treasury Department is struggling with the question of which bills to pay if they can't borrow more money and pay them all.

That decision ought to be easy: Don't pay bills from the districts of Congresscritters who vote against raising the debt limit.  That's what Karl Rove would do.  That's what Lyndon Johnson would have done.  Too bad Rahm Emanuel isn't still working in the Administration; he'd love doing that.

Admittedly, it's a little easier to say it than do it.  A whole lot of the bills the government gets aren't closely related to any particular congressional districts.  But a lot of folks in Congress aren't as closely aligned with their districts as they are with certain lobbies.  For senators it seems even more so -- Joe Lieberman seems to represent the insurance industry more than he represents Connecticut.  

That brings me to my favorite target -- insurance companies that run "Medicare Advantage" programs.  Obama could save a fortune by giving them the 'slow pay' treatment.  They're overpaid anyway, since they manage to cherry-pick the healthiest Medicare patients.  They gave Obama no end of trouble on the passage of health care reform.  And some of the biggest ones are headquartered in Mitch McConnell's home state.

There's even a good constitutional excuse for some of the prioritization: the 14th amendment.  It ought to justify paying the interest on existing bonds first.  (Too bad it doesn't as easily justify issuing new bonds to replace the ones that come due.)  But if it's the Treasury that's making the decisions, the Treasury Department is part of the Executive Branch of our government.  Shouldn't the President be the one who sets guidelines on how to deal with new situations?

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