Graham says he'd break no-tax pledge
Senator says deduction caps negotiable if Democrats agree to entitlement reforms
A leading Republican senator said Sunday he's willing to break the no-tax pledge promoted by activist Grover Norquist if Democrats are willing to help pass spending reforms on government programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said he believes capping tax deductions should be part of a plan to reduce the federal debt -- a revenue-raising tactic that pushes against Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which stipulates lawmakers who sign the document will "oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."
"I'm willing to generate revenue," Graham said on ABC. "It's fair to ask my party to put revenue on the table. We're below historic averages."
The South Carolina Republican said he agreed with Norquist that tax rates shouldn't be raised, but that Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, was mistaken in his unyielding opposition to increasing tax revenue.
"I think Grover is wrong when it comes to, we can't cap deductions and buy down debt," said Graham, who added that he would "violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country."
Part of any deal involving a cap on tax deductions would have to include agreement by Democrats to reforms in spending on government entitlement programs, Graham said.
"To do this, I just don't want to promise the spending cuts. I want entitlement reforms. Republicans always put revenue on the table. Democrats always promise to cut spending. Well, we never cut spending," he said.
Graham's readiness to break the no-tax pledge comes after other Republicans, including Sen. Saxby Chambliss, have voiced similar commitments to raising revenue as part of a deal to avoid to upcoming fiscal cliff.
Chambliss, a two-term Republican from Georgia, said Wednesday that Norquist's pledge stands in the way of finding common ground on reducing the debt.
"I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge," Chambliss told Georgia television station WMAZ, a CNN affiliate. "If we do it his way, then we'll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that."
"If he wants to change his mind and become a tax increaser so we don't have to reform government, he needs to have that conversation with the people of Georgia," responded Norquist during an appearance on CNN's "The Situation Room" Friday.
Rep. Peter King, R-New York, said Sunday he agreed with Chambliss that a pledge signed decades ago shouldn't be considered relevant today, and that "everything should be on the table."
"A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress," King said on NBC. "For instance, if I were in Congress in 1941, I would have signed the declaration of war against Japan. I'm not going to attack Japan today. The world has changed. The economic situation is different."
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