WASHINGTON -- Several congressional Republicans said Sunday that they would be open to increasing the amount of money the government collects in taxes, with a senior Republican member of the U.S. Senate going so far as to say he is willing to break his earlier promise to not support tax hikes in any form.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he opposes raising income tax rates, but that he is open to increasing tax revenue by reducing the availability of deductions for things like charitable giving and mortgage interest. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also said Sunday that he would support limiting deductions.
Doing so would violate Grover Norquist's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge," which both men have signed (as have most Republicans in Congress). Under the pledge, "candidates and incumbents solemnly bind themselves to oppose any and all tax increases," according to the Americans for Tax Reform site.
"When you're $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece, and Republicans -- Republicans should put revenue on the table," Graham said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "We're this far in debt. We don't generate enough revenue. Capping deductions will help generate revenue. Raising tax rates will hurt job creation.
"So I agree with Grover, we shouldn't raise rates. But, I think Grover is wrong when it comes to [saying] we can't cap deductions and buy down debt," Graham continued. "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."
On NBC's "Meet The Press" on Sunday, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said "everything should be on the table" in negotiations to avert the "fiscal cliff," the moment at the end of the year when tax hikes and spending cuts are scheduled to take effect at once. King said he agreed with Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who said last week that the pledge is outdated and unhelpful for reducing the national debt.
"A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress," King said. "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. Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill realized that in the 1980s. I think everything should be on the table. I am opposed to tax increases. The speaker and the majority leader and the president will be in a room trying to find the best package. I'm not going to prejudge it. And we should not be taking ironclad positions."
Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, has defended his pledge amid signs that its talismanic power over congressional Republicans has faded slightly.