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Sen. Corker: GOP might accept higher taxes to get real entitlement reform

A key Senate Republican conceded on Sunday that his party may be open to increasing taxes in exchange for a grand deal on cutting entitlement spending.

“I think Republicans if they saw true entitlement reform would be glad to look at tax reform that generates additional revenues, and that doesn't mean increasing rates that means closing loopholes, that also means arranging our tax system so that we have economic growth,” Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace.

Corker said that there’s a four to five month window in which to obtain a grand deficit bargain, and would require a willingness by President Obama to use the bully pulpit to concede that “he understands that Americans are only paying one-third of the cost of Medicare.”

The Senate’s No. 2 ranking Democrat, Dick Durbin (Ill.), took heart in Corker’s sentiment and suggested his party would be open to seriously examining entitlement reform.

“In 10 – 12 years Medicare goes broke – that’s unacceptable … and that means making some reforms and some constructive changes,” Durbin said.

But the Illinois senator took issue with the House GOP proposal to alter the program with a voucher-like system.

“There are ways to approach it to reduce the cost of medical care and still keep our promise to seniors across America,” Durbin said.

President Obama this month launched an outreach effort to speak to congressional lawmakers from both parties on a number of issues, but in particular on the possibly of reaching a grand deficit deal. Corker was one of a dozen GOP senators who said down with Obama for dinner two weeks ago and called those talks “very constructive.”

But efforts at such a deal face roadblocks from both parties. Republicans are insistent that the focus be on spending cuts and entitlement reforms, saying that they already allowed new tax revenues in January’s fiscal cliff deal.

Democrats, though, have cautioned Obama not to concede too much on entitlement reform, pressing him not to revisit cuts to Social Security in any accord.

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