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Posted: July 29, 2011 10:11 a.m.

Debt delay cound affect social security

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss is predicting a long weekend for Congress as the debt debate deadlock hangs over Washington.

Speaking to reporters Thursday ahead of a scheduled House vote on the proposal crafted by Speaker John Boehner, Chambliss said he does not expect the Senate to approve the Boehner plan or the proposal being floated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"At that point in time, over the weekend, the leaders will huddle with the White House and try to figure out where the common ground is and where that sweet spot is they can hit to have the debt ceiling extended in a way that will garner votes," Chambliss said. "It's not going to be an easy weekend up here, but it will be full of negotiations."

With the deadline looming, federal and local officials are fretting over what the possible impacts will be in Georgia.

Chambliss is a member of the so-called "Gang of Six" in Congress that has been weighing for months a solution to the national deficit. The Georgia Republican also expressed concerns that the state's military employees and those on social security could be affected if the debt ceiling is not raised by Aug. 2.

"We obviously have a huge military presence in our state," Chambliss said. "While BRAC is winding down a couple of our bases, we're still going to have 11 military installations that will be in operation. The president is going to have to decide how do we prioritize the payment of our obligations, and military pay is one of those issues. I hope it's a foregone conclusion that military pay will be made."

Gov. Nathan Deal is also bracing for how the state would deal with such a crisis. Spokesman Brian Robinson said Deal has met with the heads of various departments, asking them to fill out surveys, and has ordered the Office of Planning and Budget to prepare a memo outlining various scenarios should a shutdown occur.

"How the money is divvied up and prioritized would depend on the White House," Robinson said, adding that coming up with a game plan is "very difficult to do because ... we have no way of knowing, worst case scenario, how that would be decided. All we are doing is responsibly planning for the state's future in any scenario that confronts us."

Deal, a former congressman, has not taken a position on how the debt crisis should be resolved.

Earlier this week, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed warned that Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport could be affected, as federal grant money for projects could be stalled amid the ongoing impasse.

"We're moving to a posture where American cities are now being notified of a series of steps that will result if we don't get some movement around the debt limit," Reed said. "We're now ... being informed of a number of ways that we're going to be impacted."

Reed did not elaborate on what other city interests might be affected by a government shutdown.

Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson, who is in his last six months in office after two terms at City Hall, says he's not worried about the federal government defaulting on its loans.

"Unless those 535 people up there have totally lost their minds, they're not going to allow the greatest country in the world to default," Johnson told The AP during a break between City Council meetings Thursday. "Somebody's going to blink. Now there are those radicals that would push us over the cliff. But I think the majority is rational enough."

Instead, the 69-year-old Savannah mayor says he's more concerned about the hundreds of millions - if not trillions - of dollars in federal budget cuts that appear to be tied fast to any deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling. That's what Johnson fears will cause Savannah and other cities real financial pain.

"We are more concerned about the budget cuts than the default," Johnson said.

One group that will not be affected is the unemployed. Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said Thursday he has gotten confirmation from federal labor officials that unemployment payments would not be disrupted if the country defaults on its debt.

"We've been reassured as far as the funds in our state account, it will not be a problem," Butler said. "If you're on unemployment, you shouldn't even notice anything. This would have to go on for several months before it would become a problem. I don't really see that happening."

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Associated Press writer Russ Bynum contributed to this report from Savannah.

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