Alexander calls for entitlement reform, expects committee assignments
Sen. Lamar Alexander on “Squawk Box”
Sen. Lamar Alexander continued to push for entitlement reform Friday, making an early-morning appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” to discuss a piece of legislation recently put forward by him and Sen. Bob Corker, called the Dollar for Dollar Act.
The bill, introduced last month, would allow for a raise in the federal debt limit by nearly $1 trillion next year, only if the move is accompanied by a combination of nearly $1 trillion in reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
The reforms would be broken down into increments of $689 billion in reductions to Medicare spending, $62 billion in reductions to Social Security and $136 billion in spending cuts that would result after instituting a chained consumer price index. In all, the reductions amount to $937 billion-the same amount the bill would allow the debt limit to rise.
During his interview, Alexander suggested reductions put forward in the bill would be manageable if seniors had options other than Medicare when considering treatments. He also suggested increasing the program’s eligibility age.
“Restructure Medicare so that it can compete with a reformed Medicare advantage,” Alexander said. “That would leave seniors the opportunity to continue to choose Medicare. You should increase the Medicare age by a couple of years. Warren Buffet and I could stand that, and people with lower incomes will be eligible for Obamacare.”
The senator also suggested increasing premiums on those with higher incomes and offering certain Medicare waivers to states to save $50 billion.
Alexander repeatedly warned that, if changes are not enacted, the nation’s Medicare program ran the risk of becoming insolvent in 11 years.
When asked about his recent vote in support of legislation to avoid the fiscal cliff, Alexander said he was ready to move on now that the bill, which included controversial tax increases, had passed.
“We’re not interested in new taxes,” he said. “The president won the election. He got his tax increase on rich people. I mean, you could increase taxes on the wealthy and cut their heads off and not make a dent on the problem we have with spending and with entitlements.”
On Thursday, the senator issued a statement detailing his expectation to become the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which oversees the health care industry and education.
Along with his post on the HELP committee, Alexander said he expects to maintain his position as the ranking Republican member of the Appropriations Subcommittee, which handles funding for energy and water issues. The senator said the position would allow him to exert influence over regional projects such as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Chickamauga Lock.
“My committee assignments will also give me an opportunity to continue fighting for policies that bring lots of cheap, clean energy to Tennessee, as well as working to rebuild our waterways, which grows our economy and allows the private sector to create good jobs,” Alexander said.
Senate Republicans are expected to meet later this month to discuss committee assignments.