Senator Corker: Put a 'Straightjacket' on Federal Spending (PJM Exclusive)

"We have a tremendous opportunity to get something real done," Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn) told me on the phone Thursday afternoon. He was speaking of the Commitment to American Prosperity Act, introduced earlier this week with support from Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill and fellow Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander.

"Ours," Corker said, "is the first comprehensive cap, global cap, on spending." The CAP Act, which I poked some fun at yesterday for its long-term goal to reduce and constrain the scope of the federal government, would limit all federal outlays to 20.6% of GDP after ten years. An "immediate" limit of 22.25% would go into effect in 2013.

Corker would like to "get to 18%," which he said is about as big a share of the nation's economy as Washington is ever effectively able to collect in taxes. But he calls the bill's current limit "the most aggressive, realistic number" if we actually want to pass something.

And that's the trick, isn't it? Getting something passed. Especially given that the Party of Government still controls the Senate and the White House -- but that makes McCaskill's co-sponsorship so important. The Senate Democrats held the line on the ObamaCare repeal, but McCaskill represents at least one crack in party unity on the sp-sp-sp-spending side.

To get there, Corker has a three-part plan:

1. "This spring," he told me, "we have to vote real cuts and pass them."

2. Pass the Commitment to Prosperity Act later in the session.

3. "The third thing that needs to happen is a constitutional amendment."

He admits "that takes a while to occur, two-three years, so we've got to move quickly."

The bill itself steps back spending-per-GDP each year, until capped at that magic 20.6%. Along the way, the Office of Management and Budget "would sequester all accounts, including Social Security and Medicare, if Congress doesn't have courage to make those cuts." Automatic, across-the-board cuts, if Congress can't decide for itself, and a two-third supermajority to override OMB or the Act itself.

"We call it a straightjacket," Corker said, and you could practically hear him beam over the phone as he did.