Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) believes Senate Republicans would be open to increasing revenue through tax reform as part of a “grand bargain” to reduce the deficit. During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Corker argued that entitlement reform should be a top priority, but left the door open to reaching bipartisan consensus on deficit reduction in the next few months.
In past negotiations, the GOP leadership has repeatedly walked away from the table due to unwillingness to reach an agreement that included more revenue and, since the fiscal cliff deal, Republican leaders have insisted that the “the discussion about revenue … is over.”
Host Chris Wallace asked whether Corker and his party would be open to a compromise that include tax increases:
CORKER: I think there — by the way — is a chance on a deal. I know the president is saying the right things and we have an opportunity over the next four-to-five months. I think that we’ll know when the president is serious by virtue of a process is setup where he is actually at the table or he has a designee and whether he begins to say publicly to the American people, to all Americans, that he understands that Americans are only paying one-third of the cost of Medicare and that has to change for the program to be here down the road. But look, Chris, 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. And I think we’ve been saying that from day one.
Sen. Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), also on the program, praised Corker’s comments as “honest and constructive,” and noted that the savings need to be done in a way that does not obliterate the system, as would be the case in the “Paul Ryan voucher approach.”
Corker is exaggerating the problems facing the Medicare program. According to the program’s 2012 annual trustee’s report, Medicare’s dedicated revenue fully pays for its costs and will do so until at least 2024. Even then, revenue will cover 87 percent of Medicare costs. At the current pace, by 2086, revenue would only be sufficient to cover 69 percent of costs — but even that 75-year figure would be more than two-thirds of the program’s costs.
The Affordable Care Act both reduced the costs of Medicare by hundreds of billions and improved its coverage for seniors. He has also recommended specific reforms that would save $57 billion annually from Medicare (more even than recommended by the Bowles-Simpson commission) and hundreds of billions in entitlement savings overall.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) poured cold water on the idea of increasing taxes during an appearance on Meet The Press, saying, “There are no new tax increases because you don’t need it.”