Republican lawmakers are increasingly abandoning Grover Norquist’s no-taxes pledge and declaring a willingness to raise tax revenues as part of a deal to avoid the severe austerity measures set to take effect in January.
On the Sunday talk shows, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called for raising revenues by scaling back tax deductions and credits.
“I would be very much opposed to raising tax rates, but I do believe we can close a lot of loopholes,” McCain said on “Fox News Sunday.” He said that could be achieved by imposing “a limit on the amount of deduction on charitable giving, a limit on the amount you can take on your home loan mortgage deduction.”
Graham, who has previously spoken out against Norquist’s pledge, reiterated his position on ABC’s “This Week,” arguing that he will support higher taxes if Democrats agree to meaningful entitlement cuts.
“I’m willing to generate revenue. It’s fair to ask my party to put revenue on the table. We’re below historic averages,” he said. “I will not raise tax rates to do it. I will cap deductions. 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.”
“When you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece, and Republicans should put revenue on the table. We’re this far in debt. We don’t generate enough revenue,” the senator said. “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.”
On Thursday, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) abandoned Norquist’s pledge, which says raising tax revenues to cut the debt (as opposed to using the money to lower tax rates) is unacceptable.
“I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” he told a local Georgia TV station. “If we do it his way, then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that.”
Asked if he worries that his openness to new taxes might earn him a primary challenger, Chambliss said, “I don’t worry about that because I care too much about my country. I care a lot more about it than I do Grover Norquist.”
Despite their softer rhetoric since losing the election, House Republicans publicly remain reluctant to raise new tax revenues if they aren’t used to lower rates. But on Sunday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) signaled willingness to break from that by attacking the relevance of Norquist’s pledge on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
“I agree entirely with Saxby Chambliss,” King said. “A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress. For instance, if I were in Congress in 1941, I would have supported a declaration of war against Japan. I’m not going to attack Japan today.”
“The world has changed and the economic situation is different. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill realized that in the 1980s. I think everything should be on the table,” he said. “I, myself, am opposed to tax increases. The fact is the speaker and the majority leader and the president are gonna be in a room, trying to find the best package. I’m not gonna prejudge it. And I’m just saying we should not be taking iron clad positions. I have faith in John Boehner to put together a good package.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.