By Vicki Needham - 08/18/14 04:14 PM EDT
The top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee said balancing the budget within a decade is a realistic goal if lawmakers could cut entitlement spending.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the panel’s ranking member, who is poised to take over as chairman if Republicans capture control of the Senate, said programs like Medicare and Medicaid should be looked at to offset needed increases in defense spending.
But he acknowledges that, without a rush of new revenue, balancing the government’s books would require painful choices on spending cuts to entitlement programs, while Republicans are looking to increase defense spending.
Sessions said the cap on defense spending at $521 billion and less being spent on operations overseas leaves the United States more vulnerable and could hamper the nation’s ability to protect itself.
"Meeting our national security challenges does require money," he said.
The federal government is expected to have its lowest shortfall in six years, which should come in around $500 billion when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
A recent New York Times story said the Senate GOP is coalescing around an agenda for next year that would put a focus on balancing the budget within a decade.
Sessions has said that, if his party gains the majority in the Senate, the GOP must put together a balanced budget.
But, without new revenue, balancing the budget over the next decade would require about $5.5 trillion in spending cuts, according to Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
Sessions has said that his staff is digging through the budget to look for areas ripe for cuts.
In addition, amid a series of international crises, Sessions said the U.S. needs as better strategy.
"I'm sick at heart as to what is happening in Iraq, and I don't believe it had to happen," Sessions said. "And I fear for Afghanistan. We lack a clear and unifying national strategic vision for America. I don't know what kind of message that sends our adversaries."