CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Eager to prevent the threatened closure of Cleveland's downtown post office, Mayor Tom Rowland appealed Monday to U.S. Sen. Bob Corker to spare the Broad Street office.
"We sure could use your help," Rowland told Corker during a meeting with more than two dozen Cleveland business leaders.
Corker listened politely but offered little encouragement about removing the post office from a list of 3,700 possible closings.
"Every time a tough decision has to be made, I can't be calling up and asking that the decision be reversed," he said.
With the Postal Service running an $8 billion deficit and the federal government nearly $14.6 trillion in debt, Corker said Congress shouldn't block attempts to run government more efficiently.
As a former Chattanooga mayor, Corker often aligned himself with Rowland in appealing for federal aid for their cities. But the growing federal deficit will require Uncle Sam to scale back his presence in East Tennessee, Corker said.
Corker said the ratings downgrade of U.S. Treasurys by Standard & Poor's ratings service over the weekend "was a real embarrassment to our country."
"Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call for us to act," Corker said. "I do believe that four more years of President Obama continuing on the current course will be incredibly damaging to our country."
Corker said he is eager to make the tough decisions required to cut the federal budget deficit and said he "would relish" the chance to serve on the congressional panel being formed to come up with a plan by November to cut another $1.5 trillion from the U.S. debt over the next decade.
Under the budget agreement approved last week in Washington, D.C., House and Senate leaders will establish a 12-member bipartisan panel with members from both chambers to expand the debt reductions already approved. Failure to do so by the end of the year would trigger automatic cuts in military and domestic spending of as much as $1.2 trillion.
"I love trying to solve complex, tough and controversial problems," Corker said. "It's up to the leader [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.], but I would love to serve on that committee."
The freshman senator said Congress needs to make more spending cuts and changes in entitlement programs to rein in government's size. But Corker said he is "fairly independent" and has worked as a problem solver in business and at Chattanooga's City Hall.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 757-6340.