Sen. Bob Corker predicted Friday in Chattanooga that despite being "ham-handed" and "very painful," an $85 billion mix of cuts known as the sequester would take effect March 1 and that the country would be better off for it in the long run.
"We should let it happen," Corker said.
Corker offered his thoughts during remarks made to members of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce at the INCubator on Cherokee Boulevard
The senator and former Chattanooga mayor suggested Congress should allow the sequester to be implemented, despite the threat of serious setbacks to the Pentagon and agencies that rely on government discretionary spending for funding.
"[The cuts] were set up to be very painful, and they're going to be," Corker said. "You're cutting a big chunk out of 19 percent of the budget and not touching another 81 percent. It was designed to be so painful that people would never allow it to happen—but it's going to happen."
The senator elaborated on his comments, pointing out that the cuts were based off projected growth budgeting by the federal government and could be remedied as early as next month, when Congress considers a containing resolution to allow agencies to continue receive funds.
"If appropriators wanted to, they could reorder this whole sequester in 26 days," he said.
Corker emphasized that his opinion on allowing the sequester deadline to pass wasn't for a lack of searching for a solution on his part.
He repeatedly hearkened to the Dollar for Dollar Act, a proposal introduced last year that he said was a viable alternative to replacing the sequester and a step toward reordering the way funds are designated for entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Since introducing the bill, Sen. Lamar Alexander has joined with Corker in promoting the legislation.
As introduced, the bill would allow for an approximately $1 trillion increase in the federal debt limit in exchange for $1 trillion in cuts to entitlement spending. The cuts would be derived from items such as raising the eligibility age for Medicare and instituting a chained consumer price index for gauging inflation on benefits.
"The wise thing would be for us in a bipartisan way to agree to $1.2 trillion in reductions, and I've got a bill that does that," Corker said.
During his remarks, Corker also said he was encouraged by the prospect of a free trade agreement being reached between the U.S. and the European Union, particularly for Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant. Corker said he had been openly discussing the benefits that a lifting of tariffs could bring with both VW leaders and the trade commissioner for the European Union, Karel De Gucht.
"If we can combine our energy prices in this nation with a really good trade agreement, I think it bodes incredibly well for Chattanooga and for the state of Tennessee," he said.
On Wednesday, Alexander visited Chattanooga to discuss the impact a trans-Atlantic trade agreement could have for local manufacturers.