Mississippi's Wicker sees way off 'fiscal cliff'

By The Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mississippi’s junior U.S. senator says Republicans are willing to meet President Barack Obama’s call for new revenue to stave off tax increases and deep cuts in government programs — but only if Democrats accept what he calls entitlement reform.

“We’re going to have some bipartisan give-and-take on this and it’s not sounding good at the outset,” Sen. Roger Wicker told The Commercial Appeal. “We’re going to have to admit we have a spending problem.”

Some Democrats say there’s no reason a victorious president who picked up seats in both House and Senate should take major cuts from programs like Social Security or Medicare when allowing Bush tax cuts on the wealthy to expire would significantly dent the deficit.

To reach spending goals, Wicker said during an interview last week in his Washington office, Congress must make cuts, “including in programs we like.”

“What we need to do is approach it as a family does that has fallen on hard times,” he said. “They sit around the table and they say, ‘we can’t afford this anymore — we can’t afford this much anymore.’ And I just don’t see the willingness. The Democratic leadership of the Senate appeared not to want to do any entitlement reform. It is absolutely a mathematical impossibility to get anywhere near where we need to be unless we address the growth of entitlements.”

Wicker said he thinks Republicans in Congress generally agree that they can provide the additional revenue the president wants.

“We would prefer not to do it with higher tax rates. We think it would be better for the overall job market to cap deductions and exemptions for the wealthy,” he said. “We don’t think that would be a drag on risk-taking and job creation like tax rates would be, but we’re willing to give him the revenue.”