MURFREESBORO — U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said Wednesday voting for an early August debt ceiling-budget cutting deal was "like kissing your sister."
But he told a crowd at Five Senses restaurant he learned quickly in Washington that any time someone agrees to cut spending, "never say no."
Even though he crafted bipartisan-backed legislation that would have cut spending by $5.3 trillion over 10 years, Corker voted for a compromise package to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by $2.3 trillion accompanied by $2.3 trillion in spending cuts.
"There's been a precedent set where if the American people hang with us we can get the budget balanced," Corker, a Chattanooga Republican, said at the event held by the Stones River-Oaklands Kiwanis Club.
He shrugged off subsequent Tea Party criticism, saying he wasn't happy with the amount of spending cuts but couldn't pass up the reductions. In fact, Corker said if spending cuts match increases in the debt ceiling each time over the next decade, Congress could balance the budget by 2021.
The "super committee" of Democrats and Republicans put together to make those spending cuts faces an even more difficult task, Corker said. He hopes the panel also addresses tax reform, ultimately doing away with 60 percent to 70 percent of loopholes such as corn and ethanol subsidies that total $1.2 trillion, enabling Congress to lower all tax rates.
Such a move would generate more economic growth and eliminate debate over whether to end the Bush era tax breaks, Corker said.
"I think there's growing consensus on both sides of the aisle," he said.
Corker said he senses a "soberness" and "seriousness" among Americans and Tennesseans over the last two months in that people are dropping "hollow comments" in favor of bringing the nation's financial situation under control.
The nation is spending $3.7 trillion this year and taking in only $1.2 trillion, but even if Congress eliminated all discretionary funds such as Pentagon spending, it still wouldn't balance the budget.
That's why even though a lagging economy is causing low revenue, spending is Washington's main problem, primarily on programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, he said.
For instance, the average family's income is $43,000 and it pays $109,000 over a lifetime into Medicare. But the same family takes $343,000 out of Medicare and, coupled with a looming increase of 20 million baby boomers on Medicare rolls, the "math doesn't work," Corker said…