Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Two leading Republicans break with Norquist no-tax pledge

WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday he was 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 Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., who said last week that Norquist's pledge may be outdated.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. "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 was open to capping deductions to raise revenues, he made clear that he remained opposed to raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, something President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have been pushing for 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 the influential group Americans for Tax Reform, strictly opposes tax increases, even during the fiscal cliff negotiations. Graham had previously signed on to the pledge not to raise taxes.

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

King, who has also signed the pledge, echoed Chambliss' assessment as he argued that changing times and a different economic climate justify a new approach. "A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress," King said on NBC's Meet The Press.

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

"I think the top rate needs to go up," Majority Whip Dick Durbin, 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."

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