Grover Norquist, author of the antitax pledge, in the offices of the Americans for Tax Reform in Washington.

Luke Sharrett, New York Times

Is tax pledge losing its teeth?

  • Article by: SEAN SULLIVAN
  • Washington Post
  • November 25, 2012 - 8:24 PM

WASHINGTON - Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday he is willing to violate Grover Norquist's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" to strike a deal with Democrats over the so-called fiscal cliff, while a second Republican, Rep. Peter King, N.Y., echoed the assessment of Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., who said last week that Norquist's pledge may be outdated.

"I agree with Grover, we shouldn't raise rates, but I think Grover is wrong when it comes to we can't cap deductions and buy down debt," Graham said on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos." "What do you do with the money? I want to buy down debt and cut rates to create jobs, but I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform."

While Graham said he's open to capping deductions to raise revenue, he made clear that he remains opposed to raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, something President Obama and congressional Democrats want as part of a deal.

"I will not raise tax rates to do it. I will cap deductions," Graham said. "If you cap deductions around the $30,000, $40,000 range, you can raise $1 trillion in revenue, and the people who lose their deductions are the upper-income Americans."

Norquist, who founded Americans For Tax Reform, strictly opposes tax increases, even during the fiscal cliff talks. Graham had previously signed Norquist's pledge not to raise taxes.

Last week, Chambliss drew attention when he said he was willing to buck the Norquist pledge. "I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge," he said. "If we do it his way, then we'll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that."

King, who also signed the pledge, echoed Chambliss' assessment as he argued that changing times and a different economic climate justify a new approach. The New York congressman said that while he opposes tax increases, he does not advocate taking "ironclad positions" during the budget negotiations between Democrats and Republicans.

"I agree entirely with Saxby Chambliss. A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress," King said on NBC's "Meet The Press." He continued: "For instance, if I were in Congress in 1941, I would have signed a declaration of war against Japan. I'm not going to attack Japan today. The world has changed and the economic situation is different."

Democrats, meanwhile, continued to press Sunday for increasing tax rates on the wealthiest Americans.

"I think the top rate needs to go up, and that's where I may disagree with my friend, Lindsey Graham," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on "This Week." Echoed Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., on "Meet The Press": "You've got to raise additional revenues, including tax rates on the wealthy."

Durbin said that entitlement reform -- with conditions -- should also be part of the conversation. "From my side of the table, bring entitlement reform into the conversation. Social Security, set aside. Doesn't add to the deficit. But when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid, protect the integrity of the program, but give it solvency for more and more years."

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