Special Report: What's Wrong with Washington?

Special Report: What's Wrong with Washington?

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Recently 6 News traveled to Washington, to Capitol Hill and asked our elected Tennessee leaders what's wrong with Washington? Recently 6 News traveled to Washington, to Capitol Hill and asked our elected Tennessee leaders what's wrong with Washington?
"We need more of us on both sides of the aisle to realize that after we make our speeches, we're not finished. We have to get a result if you want to fix the debt," Sen. Lamar Alexander said. "We need more of us on both sides of the aisle to realize that after we make our speeches, we're not finished. We have to get a result if you want to fix the debt," Sen. Lamar Alexander said.
"I don't think there's any question that Washington has not solved the nation's problems," said Sen. Bob Corker. "I don't think there's any question that Washington has not solved the nation's problems," said Sen. Bob Corker.
"What we need to do is reform the mandatory spending programs to preserve these programs," said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann. "What we need to do is reform the mandatory spending programs to preserve these programs," said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.
"I'm pessimistic that not enough people realize the seriousness of the hole that we're in," said Second District Congressman Jimmy Duncan. "I'm pessimistic that not enough people realize the seriousness of the hole that we're in," said Second District Congressman Jimmy Duncan.

By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WATE) - We hear it all the time. You've probably even said it: What's wrong with Washington?

It seems every time there is a major issue facing Congress, Washington reacts with Republicans on one side and Democrats on the other.

And the result?  Not much gets done.

6 News traveled to Washington, to Capitol Hill and asked our elected Tennessee leaders why?

On the day we arrived, it was a hot spring day in Washington, arguably the most powerful city in the world.

As usual tourists were snapping photos and young people were checking out Capitol Hill. It all seemed normal. But there is a growing sense that there is trouble on the horizon.

At $17 trillion, the national debt is spiraling out of control and Congress seems unable or unwilling to stop it. 

Congressman Chuck Fleischmann, a Republican from the 3rd District didn't hesitate in his answer to our questions. 

"Yes," he said, "the system is broken."

Sen. Bob Corker agreed.

"I don't think there's any question that Washington has not solved the nation's problems," he said.

Both Sen. Corker and Congressman Fleischmann said it's easy to get distracted in Washington, but keeping an eye on spending should be job one.

Together with veteran Sen. Lamar Alexander and longtime House member Jimmy Duncan, the four Republicans shared their thoughts with 6 News.  

"I'm pessimistic that not enough people realize the seriousness of the hole that we're in," said Second District Congressman Jimmy Duncan.  

Serious yes, but here is where it gets sticky. While Democrats believe in a balanced approach of targeted tax increase for the wealthy and spending cuts, Republicans are looking only at the spending side. 

Duncan and the others say to make a real dent in spending, you have to look at entitlements.

"What we need to do is reform the mandatory spending programs to preserve these programs," said Rep. Fleischmann.

Fleischmann pointed out that those programs comprise two-thirds of the nation's deficit.

Those programs, of course, include Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

So how do you touch these programs and still protect those in the programs?

Corker says it lies in the fact that our budgetary process stretches over ten years.

"You can do these things in an artful, graceful way so that you almost don't notice that its occurring," he said.  "But you have to start turning the ship. And everybody acts like something draconian is going to happen the next day. That's not the case. These are tweaks."

Tweaks or not, it is at the heart of a philosophical debate that has crippled Washington in effectively dealing with the problem.

Alexander says daunting as it appears, it's not impossible.

"Of course it can be fixed. It would be simple really. One in the Senate, like a football player, you have to block and tackle, and that means you have to start passing a budget and passing appropriations bills," he said.

"And two," the senator continued, "we need more of us on both sides of the aisle to realize that after we make our speeches, we're not finished. We have to get a result if you want to fix the debt."

But where is the common ground? It may lie in the growing seriousness of the problem.

"There's beginning to be, in my opinion, the right environment for these solutions," Sen. Corker said. "The biggest problem, and I get back to these fiscal issues, I am hopeful we may have an environment that may bear some fruit."

He also concedes that the Senate's division is much like the country. 

But that, Corker says, is not an excuse for Washington not to do its job.

Congressman Duncan also added a quote from his late father, former Congressman John Duncan, Sr.:

"Everything looks easy from a distance."

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