Senator Bob Corker told an overflow crowd at the Hamilton Place Rotary Club on Wednesday that overcoming the nation's staggering debt problem will be a difficult longtime struggle.
He said he has been frustrated by the slow rate of progress being made in Congress toward debt reduction.
Senator Corker said when he heard that Congress might do nothing and await upcoming elections, "I erupted. At that moment, I thought my head was going to jump off."
He said the Obama administration had fought his CAP Act that would have brought $5 trillion in savings over 10 years, but Congress finally worked out a deal for up to $2.5 trillion.
He said he and other members of Congress are urging a super committee on debt reduction to go much higher on trimming spending.
The speaker said, "Most of the people are not aware of the math, but it's a huge problem."
For example, he said an average family over their lifetime contributes $109,000 to Medicare and takes out $343,000. And he noted that 20 million Medicare beneficiaries are coming into the program.
He said if Congress cut all the discretionary programs, including defense, highways and education, it still would not solve the deficit.
Senator Corker said he believes recent administration initiatives, including the healthcare bill and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill "have thrown a wet blanket on the economy." He said many employers are reluctant to add workers and may trim their staffs or go to part-time help.
He said he does believe there is hope for debt-reduction progress in Washington, saying that legislators realize there is "a somberness, a soberness and almost a fear among the American people" about the economic future.
The Chattanooga senator said, "We have a tremendous opportunity to deal with our fiscal crisis and rebuild confidence in our country."