Sen. Lamar Alexander suggested Tuesday that President Barack Obama look to his White House predecessors when considering any efforts to avert the impending $85 billion mix of automatic cuts known as the sequester.
Following a meeting with members of the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association, Alexander told reporters that Obama should exhibit leadership in the vein of former presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. If Obama and Congress cannot agree on how to replace the cuts put in place by previous fiscal battles, hundreds of thousands of jobs stand to be slashed because of ripple effects after a deadline passes on March 1.
"This requires presidential leadership," Alexander said. "It requires the kind of leadership that President Nixon gave when we went against his own party and made an agreement with China; that President Clinton did on welfare reform; that President Reagan did with Tip O'Neill on Social Security in 1983. If President Obama will lay out the reductions that he wants to make in mandatory spending, then we can avoid the mandatory cuts, or at least modify them so that they make more sense."
Alexander said that reductions would be necessary in the areas of entitlement spending—an area he has addressed in recent legislation introduced with Sen. Bob Corker. The senator said reductions to mandatory spending programs still needed to occur, just from "smarter" areas.
"One way or another, we need to reduce spending by $1.2 trillion," he said. "We agreed to do that two years ago; we can't back up on that."
Both Alexander and Corker voted in favor of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which initially put the sequester in place. In the past, the senator said he would not have changed his vote in favor of the bill because the sequester was a "ham-handed device" that was never supposed to happen.