By Meghashyam Mali - 11/26/12 12:50 PM EST
Republican Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) on Monday touted his proposal for avoiding the “fiscal cliff” and urged lawmakers to “rip the Band-Aid off” and pass a meaningful deficit-reduction package before January.
“The easiest thing, the best thing we can do for the country, is rip the Band-Aid off, make these decisions and in January we’ll see an economy that will take off,” Corker said on CBS’s “This Morning.”
“No Congress in history is more prepared to make these decisions — we’ve had two dry runs, we’ve litigated this, we’ve gone through every single score of every single decision that would have to be made and the last thing we need to do right now is kick the can down the road or create some process,” said Corker.
In an op-ed in The Washington Post Monday morning, Corker unveiled his own proposal for avoiding the combination of tax rate rises and automatic spending cuts set to take effect in January, which economists warn could throw the nation back into a recession.
“At best, a ‘small’ deal will leave us facing another cliff, selecting down the line from the same menu of policy options before us today. The only difference will be that the hole we’re digging out from will be even deeper,” he wrote.
Corker said his $4.5 trillion deficit package included $1 trillion in new revenues, but would not raise tax rates, instead capping federal deductions at $50,000.
His plan also calls for entitlement reform, keeping in place current fee-for-service Medicare but creating additional private options for senior citizens. Corker would also push for “gradual age increases within Medicare and Social Security.”
Corker’s proposal comes as lawmakers return to Washington and a growing number of Republicans say they are open to new revenue measures if coupled with entitlement reform.
Corker became the latest GOP lawmaker to publicly break from conservative activist Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, joining fellow Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
“I’m not obligated on the pledge,” said Corker. “I was just elected; the only thing I’m honoring is the oath that I take when I serve, when I’m sworn in in January.”
The Americans for Tax Reform pledge is signed by a majority of congressional Republicans and promises not to increase marginal income tax rates or to eliminate loopholes or deductions without corresponding tax-rate reductions.
Democrats have hailed Republicans moving away from the Norquist pledge, and on Sunday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) suggested that his party would be willing to also put social programs on the negotiating table.
“We need to be honest on our side of the aisle, and as we did under Bowles-Simpson, put everything on the table,” said Durbin.
Lawmakers from both sides are signaling optimism that there is room to maneuver in talks and craft a solution.
Corker said he hoped his plan would at the least spark serious negotiations between President Obama and lawmakers from both parties, arguing that there was “plenty of time” for a comprehensive deal before the nation reached the fiscal cliff.
“There’s a menu of options on the revenue side and on the entitlement side, as long as there are two parties willing to solve this problem, this is a very easy thing to do, technically,” said Corker.
“What it takes is political courage, and what I’ve seen up here is a lot of folks who constantly want to make tough decisions later down the road.”