Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday joined the ranks of Republican lawmakers stepping away from Grover Norquist’s famous anti-tax pledge, offering to cut his support for the pledge – with a catch.
“I will violate the pledge for the good of the country only if Democrats will do entitlement reform,” he said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that “the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid being Greece.”
Graham specified that although he agrees with Norquist’s stand against raising tax rates and not raising taxes for wealthy Americans, he disagrees with him on deduction caps and buying down debt.
Graham was accompanied by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who said that “the world has changed,” and sticking to the pledge was a non-starter.
“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,” he said, asserting that pledges should apply only to the era in which they are signed.
Nonetheless, King remained confident that House Speaker John A. Boehner would do “everything he can to avoid raising tax rates” during negotiations with Democrats.
Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” has been a calling card for Republicans, and a sticking point for Democrats, since its inception in 1986. It calls for the signer to oppose “any and all efforts” to increase tax rates, and to oppose the reduction or elimination of deductions or credits, unless those reductions are met with tax-rate cutbacks.
Graham and King joined Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who said Wednesday that “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge.”
Chambliss, speaking with Georgia television station WMAZ-TV Channel 13, said he’s ready to “let the political consequences take care of themselves,” setting the stage for Graham and King’s remarks Sunday.
Norquist responded to Chambliss, stating that “his promise is to the people of Georgia.”
Norquist also brought attention to a letter Chambliss signed in 2011, promising not to vote for tax increases.
“If he plans to vote for higher taxes to pay for Obama-sized government, he should address the people of Georgia and let them know that he plans to break his promise to them,” Norquist said in a statement, the principles of which also apply to Graham’s and King’s comments.