Despite the current partisan gridlock in Congress, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said today he expects Congress will reach some type of a budget compromise following the presidential election in November.
"We don't have a choice," Alexander told the Chattanooga Rotary Club. "Either in the lame duck session (after the November elections and before the next Congress takes office in January) or in the first three months of the new presidential term, we have to deal with our fiscal situation."
Alexander said it is most likely the needed compromise will come in early 2013 and involve both tax and entitlement reforms to cut spending and raise more money to narrow a federal budget deficit projected to reach $1.1 trillion this year.
In the U.S. Senate where 60 votes are required to pass most measures, Republicans and Democrats will have to compromise because neither party will have a sufficient majority before or after this fall's election, Alexander said.
"If we don't do it, by the year 2025 every tax dollar we collect will go for Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid and there will be no money for national defense, the national parks, national labs or student loans," he said. "That's an intolerable situation and that's only 10 or 11 years away."
Alexander, who stepped down as Senate Republican Caucus Chairman earlier this year, is among lawmakers who have voiced support for the recommendations of the president's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (often called Bowles-Simpson commission after co-chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles). That panel recommended spending cuts, fewer tax deductions and a flatter tax rate.
"We've got to raise the debt ceiling, reduce the debt, reform the tax system, deal with Medicare and a whole host of other things," Alexander said. "We just need to rare back, do our jobs that we were elected to do and put the country first."