Republican Sen. Bob Corker sees an opening for a comprehensive financial deal if the GOP reclaims control of the Senate in this year's elections. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — Should the GOP win control of the US Senate, a window will open for lawmakers and the Obama White House to take one more shot at a sequester-killing fiscal deal, a key Senate Republican tells CongressWatch.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was involved in every effort to strike a “grand bargain” over the last few years. And despite a frustrating end to talks last September, Corker sees an opportunity early next year, when a new Congress is seated.
The key, in his eyes: A potentially divided government, with Republicans controlling the legislative branch and Democrats the executive.
“If we were fortunate to … be in the majority, I think that’s when big things happen for our country because both sides own the solution,” Corker said. “We’ve seen big things happen in the past when we’ve had divided government, where you saw problems that lingered and one side didn’t want to take the blame.
“I really hold out hope that if we win the majority … we’ll have the opportunity and the environment will be right for a big solution to occur,” Corker said.
Corker and other Republicans said if Republicans control both chambers next year, it should force Democrats and President Barack Obama to adhere to more GOP demands in negotiations over such a deal.
A bigger majority in the House and a small majority in the Senate would be an early test for GOP leaders over whether they would accept some level of defense cuts — likely smaller than sequestration’s scheduled cuts — to get more of the domestic entitlement cuts they so crave.
Republicans like Corker believe they can get more domestic entitlement program cuts and guard against Democratic-supported tax hikes if they control both chambers. But, even with a small Senate majority, they would still need to secure 60 votes to pass a deficit-paring bill.
Corker said the administration, during previous tries at a fiscal deal, has been “unwilling to upset their base.” But, he says, if Republicans control both chambers, “I think that kind of changes that dynamic.”
Shaun Donovan, Housing and Urban Development secretary and the White House’s nominee to run the Office of Management and Budget, said Wednesday that he wants to, if confirmed, work with lawmakers on addressing sequestration.
Donovan told the Senate Budget Committee he wants to work with Congress on “moving beyond the manufactured crises of the past few years and providing some measure of relief from the damaging cuts caused by sequestration.”
To replace or again lessen the sequestration cuts set to take effect in 2016 and beyond, the two sides would have to find common ground on other deficit-reduction measures.
Donovan said the “primary drivers” of US debt and deficits are “health care cost growth and inadequate revenues to meet the needs of our aging population.”
That showed the White House remains far away on a solution with Republicans, who continue to reject the notion of a fiscal deal that raises taxes and cuts defense again rather than deep domestic entitlement program cuts.
Congressional Democrats and the White House remain opposed to the kind of deep federal spending cuts — mostly to domestic entitlement programs — the GOP wants.