Graham says he'd break no-tax 'pledge'
November 25th, 2012
12:42 PM ET
8 years ago

Graham says he'd break no-tax 'pledge'

(CNN) – 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."

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"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."

Also on the CNN Political Ticker

- Graham says he'd break no-tax 'pledge'

- Cantor: Voters more concerned about problem solving than pledge

- Christie gets post-Sandy approval rating bump

- Norquist says he'll go after pledge-breakers

- Rep. Capito to run for Senate in West Virginia

Filed under: Grover Norquist • Lindsey Graham
soundoff (317 Responses)
  1. Kevin

    Average American – I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under god, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all.

    Republicans – I pledge allegiance to Norquist for the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, and to each Republican for which it stands, one party, under Grover, stalemating, with no remorse, and justice for all the wealthy!

    November 26, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  2. California Gary

    It's about time some of the GOP members "grew a set" and did what is right for the country. Of course, all they have done so far is talk about it........lets see if they back it up with action when the time comes for a vote.

    November 26, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  3. ProudDemocrat

    Signing the pledge is OK by me. That tells voters where a candidate stands. I don't see that as treason as some have called it.

    In the similar vein though, Democrats should sign a pledge that they will NOT cut ANY spending till the govt revenues rise to the historical average of 20% of the GDP (over last 100 years). Then only, they should consider spending cuts, not until then. None of the government programs including entitlements caused these deficits but the stupid, reckless and irresponsible tax cuts by republicans. After 30 years of this trickle-down non-sense, it is time for democrats to shoot down the notion of reganomics once for all and then see where republican party stands. Democrats should repeat the mantra "SPENDING DID NOT CAUSE THE DEFICITS, LACK OF REVENUES DID".

    However, at the same time, democrats should also realize that we ALL are going to have play a part in deficits and debt reduction by having to pay some more taxes like we did during Clinton years. Just raising taxes on top 2% is NOT going to reduce the deficits but that is just the first step. I am sure that most democrats will agree to pay more if and only if the increased revenues go partly towards much needed investments and rest going to DEBT reduction.

    I call all Warren Buffet's of the world who are willing to pay more to start paying their 2012 taxes at the rate of 39.6% with the stipulation that the 4.6% go to the debt reduction. If they start doing it in significant nos., it will change the dynamics of the discussion.

    November 26, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  4. El Jefe

    I don't understand why Medicare and Social Security are referred to by the bottom 1% (bottom 1% IQ, that is), as "entitlement programs." When (if) I get my SS checks in retirement, they will be a fraction of what that money would be had I been allowed to invest that money myself.

    Actually, maybe "entitlement" is right – I put the money in, my employer matches it, I damn well better be entitled to get a small fraction of it back in retirement.

    November 26, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  5. Fair is Fai

    "2) The American people support raising tax rates on the wealthiest 2% of Americans. A full 60% of voters told exit pollers they wanted the Bush tax cuts to expire on those who make more than $250,000 per year."
    Well, gee... there's a surprise. 60% of voters think taxes should be raised on 2% of the population... BECAUSE IT WON'T HURT THEM.

    Taxes go to pay for services the government provides, right? So why should you pay 1 amount for those services while someone else pays a different amount? Would you like it if the "wealthy" paid $5 for a loaf of bread where everyone else pays $2? I bet as a card-carrying member of the Borg Collective you would.

    November 26, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  6. lj

    Elected people owe a pledge to the constituents, not an over-paid, obnoxious lobbyist.

    November 26, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  7. Roger

    It's high time these Congress and senators know who is their boss...Impeach every one of them...They want to hurt we the people because of these two wars and it's time to pay for them...Pay it back off the backs of the working poor and grandpa grandmas SS check. They paid for that SS check! at the same rate these states workers paid into call it what you want It's still a fat retirement for the states workers.

    November 26, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  8. Wake up People!

    @Kevin! So true!!

    November 26, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  9. Sniffit

    "Signing the pledge is OK by me. That tells voters where a candidate stands. I don't see that as treason as some have called it. "

    Treason it certainly is not. Dereliction of duty it certainly is. Anyone who has irrevocably tethered themselves, their decision-making, their loyalties, their honor, etc., such that they are beholden to something like this pledge and the political machinery behind it...anyone that has done so, cannot be expected to do the job they were sent to DC to do. This isn't the same as making promises from the podium. This is a pseudo-legal document that impairs an elected representatives' objectivity and ability to consider all solutions and all tools available to the Legislature under the authority granted to it by the Constitution of the United States of America. Anyone who signs something like this Norquist pledge (whether it's "no taxes ever" or some stance that would be considered "liberal") cripples their ability to perform their sworn duty and puts their loyalty in question, and the proof is in the behavior we have witnessed from these fools over the past several years AND that we're even having to read inane articles like this one and pundit blabber about "political ramifications" and Norquist making threats to "go after" them, etc. Obviously, we can't just get rid of them and demand they resign. They'll cling to their seats more desperately than the rich cling to their preferential tax treatment. But, they do need to swear off the pledge completely and unconditionally AND re-affirm their oath of office. Enough is enough.

    November 26, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  10. jorge washinsen

    I think everyone should pay taxes on their income especially that which is a gift from the government.

    November 26, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  11. jorge washinsen

    Why should achievers pay all of the taxes.If you taught that in college the drop out rate would double.The recession has only affected the ones who were gainfully employed.I have been in this neighborhood, not a rich one by any means for 22 years,in business,and have seen no change in the status. Government looks the same,all stores full to capacity,dope smoking and selling still operating kids squirting out everywhere.Life goes on until the checks start bouncing.

    November 26, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Sniffit rules!

    November 26, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  13. ja

    the pledge is a crock, hands down, we can fund wars without question, the wealthy would be patriotic to pay more, they get more gifts, but they are covered with fancy names such as tax abatements, etc, simply put corporate welfare

    November 26, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  14. Woman In California

    Well, as I read some of the comments written during the Thanksgiving holiday, it seems hate is still relevant. Anyway, I hope everyone enjoyed the time off.

    The president must stand firm (this time) and not cave into these extremists and anyone who signs a pledge other than to the allegiance of this country, should not be in the United States Congress. As far as Norquist and his madness, he can go to h---– and take his pledge with him.

    November 26, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  15. David M

    A politician going back on his word?? Never heard of such a thing!

    November 26, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  16. Dino

    Same crap, new packaging. Same standoff.
    Instead of bouncing the "expiration of Bush Tax cuts" off of Obama, now they're bouncing the "no-tax pledge" off of Norquist. If all taxes go up, the GOP will argue they had a SS, Medicare reform plan on the table and Obama wouldn't sign it.

    I'll be left wondering if it's all just a huge conspiracy of a Broadway drama act designed to make Americans accept tax increases across the board by making it look like our leaders are fighting against it. We'd prefer to blame a single party but after all is said and done we'll blame the entire government. They get more money to play with, we get to deal with it.

    November 26, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  17. sbreezy

    whats this ??? – some actual LEADERSHIP from the GOP!!!! i cannot believe what im seeing – i am gobsmacked,flabbergasted, and astounded !!! FINALLY – the conservatives are starting to break the shackles of special interests and trying to do the right thing for the country. Kudos to lindsey hunter and saxby chambliss for doing something the GOP should have done ten years ago – taxing the rich. i pay 35% of my income in taxes and romney pays 13% (at most) – what could be more unamerican ?

    November 26, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  18. ghost

    Fair, you are arguing against the progressive nature of the tax structure. Even hardcore conservative agree with that part, if nothing else.

    November 26, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  19. Christy P in Santa Cruz

    Republicans always put revenue on the table. Democrats always promise to cut spending. Well, we never cut spending," he said.

    I guess he's never heard of the 'Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of February 2010', which mandates that new spending be offset with spending cuts or new revenue. Yes, a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress passed this legislation. Guess how many congressional Republicans voted for the law. Zero. Not one.

    Not only has the president cut the deficit by $312 billion during his first term (so far), but he's cut the deficit by $200 billion in the past year alone. And the CBO projected that the 2013 Obama budget, if enacted as is, would shrink the deficit to $977 billion - a four year total of nearly $500 billion in deficit reduction.

    Consequently, the president is responsible for the lowest government spending growth in 60 years


    November 26, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  20. scooter

    Raising taxes on the rich will not hurt this nation one bit. Cutting them on the rich certainly didn't help. The middle class are the millionaire creators. The last thing you want to do is hurt their buying power. All the billionaires could vanish and this nation would go merrily onward. The workers vanish, and civilization would collapse.

    November 26, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  21. Namewho

    United we stand divided we fall

    November 26, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  22. scooter

    It is totally fine to have a progressive tax system where the percentage goes up when your income goes up. It is not a disincentive. It is what built this nation into the super power it is. The last thing a functioning democratic republic needs is an aristocracy that is thousands of times richer then the average citizen. That kind of inequality is a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States.

    November 26, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  23. Almost retired!

    Entitlement changes should come after any person elected to Congress or the Senate join the rest of us in the 'FOR PROFIT Health insurance' realm. When they have to pay a portion of the monthly premium for healthcare. After the Congressmen/women and Senators have to pay copays for Rx's and doctor visits, hospital stays. When they 'join the working class' regarding benefits–then they can change the so called entitlements everyone else worked toward and for before retiring. COME ON IN THE MONEY ONLY GOES OUT faster than it COMES IN folks.

    November 26, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  24. tomasina

    The problem with Obama's $250,000 per household number is that most farmers, businessmen, etc exceed that number by a tad. BO could win nearly everyone over by simply moving to $500,000. per household. He is the one being stubborn, not Republicans.

    November 26, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  25. Fair is Fair

    ghost... I'm not arguing against a progressive taxation system. I've got no problems with the Bush tax cuts expiring. FOR EVERYONE.

    November 26, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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