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May 09, 2014 AT 11:09 AM
The Treasury Department has admitted for the first time that the government is technically capable of prioritizing payments if Congress triggers a default crisis by failing to raise the country's borrowing authority. In a letter to Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling, a senior aide to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the New York Federal Reserve, which pays the principal and interest on government debt, would be "technically capable" of continuing to make those payments while Treasury halted other payments if the United States was unable to borrow more money. The official stressed, however, that such a system is untested.