Lew says systems not set up to pay U.S. bills selectively

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on Thursday that the nation's payment systems are not set up to allow officials to pick and choose broadly between its payment obligations if Congress does not increase the government's borrowing authority and allows it to default.

"I don't believe there is a way to pick and choose on a broad basis. This system was not designed to be turned off selectively," he told a Senate hearing.

"Anyone who thinks it can be done just doesn't know the architecture of our multiple payment systems. They are very complex. They were designed properly to pay our bills. They were not designed to not pay our bills," he said.

Lew also told lawmakers that the legal issues regarding prioritization of interest and principal on debt are complicated.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)