If President Barack Obama makes any reference to tackling the nation’s debt crisis during tonight’s State of the Union address, Sen. Lamar Alexander’s ears will be perking up.
Alexander, Tennessee’s ranking senator, issued a statement Monday expressing his desire to hear Obama offer clear goals for “fixing the debt,” a feat he described as being “the biggest challenge facing our country.”
In particular, Alexander said he would like to hear the president address the nation’s $16.5 trillion debt as it relates to national spending on entitlement programs.
“The Medicare trustees have told us that in a dozen years, the Medicare program won’t have enough money to pay seniors’ medical bills,” Alexander said. “This absolutely requires presidential leadership to fix the problem.”
Alexander’s line on Medicare has become familiar in recent months, as the senator has signed on as a co-sponsor of legislation recently introduced by Sen. Bob Corker. The bill, called the Dollar for Dollar Act, would have offered a $1 trillion increase in the national debt limit in exchange for $1 trillion in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs.
Despite this month’s agreement to temporarily increase the nation’s debt limit, Alexander said his and Corker’s plan was still worthy of consideration. Both senators voted against the debt ceiling bill, which extended the government’s borrowing deadline until May 18.
“The president now needs to introduce his own plan, and then, we can work together to fix the problem and fix the debt,” he said.
Tuesday morning, Corker issued a statement offering a similar take. The senator and former Chattanooga mayor expressed his desire to see the president focus on fiscal issues, specifically Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
“I hope the president will move beyond platitudes-there’s been a lot of that over the last several years-and move to specifics to save these programs,” Corker said. “If we can put these issues in the rearview mirror, our nation can begin putting all of our energies toward doing those things that will continue to make this the greatest nation on earth.”
Obama will give his fourth State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at 9 p.m.
Updated @ 11:54 a.m. on 2/12/13 to add more information as it became available.