CHATTANOOGA – U.S. Sen. Bob Corker is urging Congress to begin making reforms to entitlement programs, including Social Security, in an effort to reduce long-term deficits.
On Tuesday, Corker contended lawmakers must begin to rebuild “the lack of trust in Washington, D.C., over excessive spending” by making reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, as part of the upcoming debt ceiling debate.
“When Congress reconvenes in two weeks, we will be facing twin deficits: dealing with the issue of our time – our country’s crushing debt – and addressing the deficit of trust,” Corker said in a press release. “I think we have all seen that recent attempts at grand bargains have created crisis after crisis, and in the end, that approach has under delivered.”
The second-term Republican senator identified two reforms as a starting point: moving to a more accurate measure of inflation and requiring wealthy seniors to contribute more for their Medicare benefits through means testing.
Noting that the White House has expressed some support for reforms in recent months, Corker pressed his colleagues to consider changing how cost-of-living adjustments are measured for Social Security.
As part of those reforms, benefits would be tied to a chained consumer price index. The new method would reconfigure the funding formula to include changes in consumer spending, as well as the price of goods and services.
Although the ideas could face strong opposition, both reforms were advocated by the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Commission and were considered in budget talks between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, a fellow Republican.
Publicly, however, Obama has not yet thrown his weight behind the ideas. As such, Corker said he believes Congress must take the lead on the issue.
“In our nation’s history, the best way big problems have been solved is through presidential leadership,” he said. “But, in the absence of a president who will on this issue, one constructive way to start tackling our financial deficit and the fiscal deadlines … is to begin legislating on entitlements in areas where there has been strong bipartisan consensus in Congress.”
Given the recent events regarding the fiscal cliff and impending debt ceiling debate, Corker said he plans on introducing legislation to enact the two reforms when Congress reconvenes.
“Though it will not be fast or easy, we must continue grinding through a similar process, month after month, using regular order, one piece at a time, until we have put our country’s finances back on a sustainable path,” he said. “In this manner, these fiscal deadlines we face don’t have to create a crisis but could be addressed incrementally, one step at a time.
“Elected officials have praised the concept of entitlement reform, but it is way past time to move beyond platitudes, start enacting real reforms now, save these programs for the future, and save our country in the process. Only responsible actions will begin to rebuild the trust deficit that exists in Congress.”