Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) broke with anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist on Tuesday, telling ABC's Jonathan Karl that he supported eliminating tax deductions in order to help get the country back on solid fiscal footing.
"We are so far in debt that if you don't give up some ideological ground, the country sinks," Graham said.
The pledge also opposes raising revenue by eliminating tax deductions and credits. Graham voiced his disagreement with that component, saying "when you eliminate a deduction, it's OK with me to use some of that money to get us out of debt."
He praised Norquist for "doing a great service" but said that due to the country's poor fiscal climate, the Republican party's position must evolve.
"When you talk about eliminating deductions and tax credits for the few, at the expense of the many, I think over time the Republican party's position is going to shift. It needs to, quite frankly, because we are $16 trillion in debt," he said.
"I'm willing to move my party, or try to, on the tax issue. I need someone on the Democratic side being willing to move their party on structural changes to entitlements."
Mitt Romney, the GOP's presumptive presidential candidate, signed the anti-tax pledge before his 2008 run for office.
Another GOP heavyweight, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, criticized Norquist's pledge recently, saying, "I don’t believe you outsource your principles and convictions to people.” He urged Romney to accept some tax increases in order to reduce the government’s budget deficit.
Asked whether Romney agreed with him, Graham said he wasn't sure. "Someone needs to ask him," he quipped.
House Republicans argue the rich already pay their fair share in taxes:
Commenting on Occupy Wall Street and the redistribution of wealth on ABC's "This Week" recently, House Speaker John Boehner said: Come on. The top 1 percent pay 38 percent of the income taxes in America. You know, how much more do you want them to pay? Well, I'll tell you what: Let's take all the money that the rich have, all of it. It won't even put a dent in our current budget deficit, much less our debt.
Rep. Larry Bucshon said in an interview with a local Indiana paper that the tax code needs to be simplified, and he invoked the Republican party line that the wealthiest Americans are creating jobs: I'm not for raising taxes on one sector of the economy. I think right now when you have a high unemployment and you raise taxes on the higher income earners, and they are not going to create any jobs. Arguing right now that the higher income earners aren't paying their fair share is not true. The data shows that. The top 1 percent of income earners are paying about 38 percent of the taxes. The top 10 percent are paying about 70 percent of the taxes.
During an House Education and the Workforce Committee markup, Rep. Mike Kelly made a plea to "stop railing against the really wealthy": I've got to tell you something. As a guy who has had to pay his own way his whole life, I am greatly offended by the idea that somehow somebody in Washington knows how to spend my money better than I do. That somebody in Washington knows how to regulate me to the point where I can't even borrow money anymore. You want to talk about people who are afraid? The small banks. They're scared to death to do anything. Why? Because their government has such onerous regulations on them anymore that they don't know about the rules and the regulations that have been put through or haven't even been written. So when you want to sit back and talk about these wealthy, evil people ... you want them to spend money? Make their future certain.
Commenting on President Barack Obama's proposed jobs bill in September, Rep. Scott DesJarlais also used the "job creators" line. The congressman argued that wealthy Americans are "shouldering the burden" by "already paying the lion's share of taxes, and taxing them more is going to hurt jobs."
Two months ago, a handful of local Democrats protested outside Rep. Blake Farenthold's office in opposition to the proposed Buffett Rule Act, which would allow taxpayers to make donations with their income tax returns to help pay down the federal public debt. The bill was named after billionaire Warren Buffett, who has said he should be paying more in taxes. GOP lawmakers responded by suggesting wealthy Americans voluntarily donate extra money when they file their tax returns. "I think everybody is paying their fair share," Farenthold said, adding, "And before we look at raising taxes on anybody, we've got to get the government spending under control. There's no point in pouring more money into something when it's hemorrhaging out the other end."
In March, months before the Occupy Wall Street movement arose, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle expressed sadness at the class warfare in America. "The middle class is being screwed," said the congresswoman at a town hall meeting, but added that the wealthy aren't to blame. "Why do we have class warfare?" she said. "Why do we want to punish the rich? They worked hard for their money."
Rep. John Fleming made more than $6 million last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. In September on MSNBC, he used himself as an example of why he opposes raising taxes on millionaires: The amount that I have to reinvest in my business and feed my family is more like $600,000 of that $6.3 million. And so by the time I feed my family, I have maybe $400,000 left over to invest in new locations, upgrade my locations, buy more equipment. MSNBC's Chris Jansing responded that the average American makes more like $40,000, $50,000 or $60,000 a year, to which Fleming responded: Again, class warfare never created a job. That's people that will not get jobs. This is all about creating jobs. It's not about attacking people who make certain incomes. You know, in this country most people feel that being successful in their businesses is a virtue, not a vice. And once we begin to identify it as a vice, this country is going down.
In August amidst the heated debate over raising the debt ceiling, Rep. Dan Benishek addressed federal spending at a public forum in Michigan. The congressman said that he would like to ease up on taxing corporations' foreign earnings and that he disagrees with raising taxes on oil companies. I think oil companies pay their fair share. I can understand where the oil company wants to deduct the cost of drilling a well. That's one of the tax breaks for oil companies, the subsidies. They get to deduct the cost of the well the year you drill.