Corker introduces bill trading nearly $1T in entitlement cuts for debt-ceiling hike

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) introduced a bill Wednesday to trade nearly $1 trillion in entitlement savings for an equal hike in the debt ceiling.

Corker said the Dollar For Dollar Act would include $937 billion in savings from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, with an equivalent, dollar-for-dollar hike to the debt ceiling.

Corker said his plan is based on recommendations from the Bowles-Simpson Fiscal Commission and the Domenici-Rivlin Debt Reduction Task Force.

{mosads}Corker offered some details about his bill during a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday. Corker said his bill would raise the age of Medicare eligibility to 67 and would include the Medicare Total Health package that would increase private-sector competition for covering the elderly. Corker also said there would be a form of means-testing, making wealthy Medicare recipients pay more of their healthcare needs.

Corker said he’d also “slowly” raise the age of eligibility for Social Security benefits, but did not specify an age. 

“We should address [Social Security] now because it’s causing the government to spend more than it takes in,” Corker said. “It will be bankrupt by 2017 if we do nothing.”

Corker said his bill would also implement a chained Consumer Price Index for Social Security, a suggestion from the Bowles-Simpson Commission. Corker said that system would more accurately assess the costs of inflation, but some Democrats have said it would reduce Social Security benefits for the poor and people with disabilities.

Corker’s bill includes a waiver program for states for Medicaid coverage.

The Dollar For Dollar Act would save $689 billion in Medicare, $62 billion in Social Security, $136 billion through the chained CPI and $50 billion in Medicaid spending.

Entitlement reforms and a hike to the debt ceiling are central in talks between President Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on a fiscal deal. 

But Corker said he didn’t expect the two would reach a large-scale agreement reducing the deficit by at least $4 trillion by the end of 2012, when Bush-era tax rates are set to expire. 

He said deficit reduction and entitlement reforms likely would have to wait for action until February, when the nation will hit its debt limit. That event would force the administration to agree to concessions on entitlements to win approval from Congress for a hike to the debt ceiling.

Corker said he wants to move his legislation through regular order, allowing committee input and amendments, which is why he wants to start the conversation on how to raise the debt ceiling and address entitlement reform now.

This article was updated at 5:40 p.m.

Tags Bob Corker Boehner John Boehner
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