This morning on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace posed a tough question to Republican senator Bob Corker of Tennessee: “You understand the price for entitlement reform in any deal would be a tax increase,” he said, so would Republicans be willing to accept such a deal in order to reform spending programs? Corker accepted the premise, and said yes: “I think Republicans, if they saw true entitlement reform, they’d be glad to look at tax reform that generates additional revenues” but also was aimed at encouraging economic growth. He further specified that this would have to mean closing loopholes and limiting deductions, not increasing rates. Corker downplayed the idea that it would be news for Republicans to be open to even more revenue increases, again, explaining “I think we’ve been saying that from Day One.”
Democratic senator Dick Durbin actually took the chance to thank Corker the “honest and constructive answer,” and suggested that the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction proposal could be a model for such a deal. But he threw cold water on one very big piece of entitlement reform, criticizing premium support for Medicare, saying “the Paul Ryan approach” is “destructive of Medicare” and claiming that “millions of Americans will lose their benefits.”
Corker also called for President Obama to offer two things in order to reach the “grand-bargain stage”: One, that he needs to use his “bully pulpit” to begin explaining to Americans the cost of entitlements (such as the fact that, he said, Americans are only paying for one-third of the cost of their Medicare benefits), and two, that he needs to lead negotiations, saying “We’ll know the president is serious when there’s a process set up whereby he’s at the table” to negotiate.