As the Trump administration moves to repeal and replace Obamacare, many other federal benefit programs are still weighing too heavily on the government's checkbook, former Sen. Jim DeMint told CNBC on Friday.
"We can't keep spending more than we're bringing in, and we've got to do something about the debt, because just the debt service is going to probably double over the next five to seven years," the Republican president of the conservative Heritage Foundation said.
"We can cut $10 trillion over 10 years and I don't think anyone would notice it, because most of these programs are wasteful and not working," he said on "Squawk Box."
"I would prefer to be able to keep my private insurance when I retire and let Medicare pay some, for it to help me. Medicare could save, and I could get a choice that I prefer. That doesn't take away the safety net that people want to stay on the current system, but I think there are a lot of less expensive choices with entitlements that people would prefer."
Ahead of the inauguration, the main federal program congressional Republicans and the Trump team have been targeting has been the Affordable Care Act. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal and replace the plan to ensure better coverage for those enrolled.
DeMint has been helping Trump throughout the transition, specifically with his impending nomination of a Supreme Court justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia.
"The process has been reassuring," DeMint said. "I think we are going to get a justice much like Scalia who has proven to make ... good, solid constitutional decisions, and that should come in the next couple of weeks."
On Jan. 3, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a fiery statement to Republicans saying Senate Democrats would not settle on a Supreme Court nominee unless the candidate was an especially strong pick. Still, DeMint was optimistic.
"I think Mitch McConnell, Republicans, and the Trump administration will do everything they can to cajole some Democrats into helping them," DeMint said of the Senate majority leader.
"And I think once there's debate, it's likely they'll pick a justice nominee who's already been confirmed by Democrats for lower court," he continued. "I feel really good that we'll be able to maybe turn the tide on where we've been going the last eight years."
The Democrats have another self-imposed challenge to overcome with the court nomination as well, former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh told CNBC in a separate interview.
"The Democrats got frustrated and changed the rules so that you could fill the vacancies for district and appellate courts without a filibuster. They didn't for the Supreme Court. My guess is the Republicans will also grow frustrated and say, 'You guys changed the rules, we will, too,'" the Democratic former senator said.
"That may end up being one of Donald Trump's biggest legacies," he added.
Bayh said the tensions between congressional Democrats and Republicans will have to be calmed for some of Trump's key legislation to pass.
"I think the one area for possible substantive bipartisan cooperation is the tax cut," Bayh said. "Particularly red and purple state Democrats, I think, will support some iteration of the tax reform."
But on key areas of the Obamacare replacement, it will be significantly more difficult for Republicans to get Democratic votes, and having two pieces of legislation moving through Congress simultaneously is complicated, he said.
"Tax reform is a better bet," the former senator said. But "the Obamacare replacement is just going to be a long hard slog and it's fraught with political peril for the Republicans because some of it's just hard to reconcile how it works out."