On avoiding the so-called "fiscal cliff," his 242-page bill challenges both Democrats and Republicans. Corker calls for a mix of tax increases and limits on Medicare and Social Security benefits. He would raise the Medicare eligibility age incrementally to 67 by 2027 and require wealthier retirees to pay higher premiums.

Although he would make all the Bush-era tax rates permanent, Corker wants to cap itemized tax deductions at $50,000, which would affect high-income taxpayers.

Corker recognizes that a final deal will be hammered out between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, but hopes his ideas earn some consideration.

A member of the Foreign Relations Committee since 2007, Corker has been frustrated with a committee that hasn't produced an authorization bill in years and has become something of a backwater since its heyday of the 1960s and '70s. His goal is to make the panel more relevant, and he wants to conduct a top-to-bottom review of all foreign assistance and spending by the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development.

High on the list for the panel early next year will be nominations, including Obama's choice for secretary of state and possibly U.N. ambassador.

For all of Republican Sen. John McCain's recent bluster about Rice and her initial, much-maligned account after the deadly Sept. 11 raid on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, it is Corker who will render his judgment and provide a crucial vote on her prospects. Corker has described Rice as more of a political operative but has avoided saying definitively where he stands on the potential nominee.

While other Republicans criticized Rice after her comments based on talking points prepared by intelligence officials, Corker traveled to Libya the first week of October to meet with officials there and learn more about what happened. The senator has traveled to 48 countries since he joined the committee.

If you liked this article you might like

What's Behind the Surge in Energy Stocks

Hillary Clinton Says Prosecuting Individuals is Key to Wall Street Reform