Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on ABC’s "This Week" Sunday that he's willing to break the Grover Norquist anti-tax pledge in order to bring more revenue into the federal government “for the good of the country.”
Graham is the second high-profile Republican to say he'd be willing to break the pledge. Earlier this week, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia also said he'd break the pledge that he said he signed 20 years ago. Also on Sunday, Rep. Peter King, R-NY, said he, too, was willing to violate the pledge.
Graham also said he believed the confusion over the cause of a terrorist attack on a U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 was a political smokescreen created by the Obama administration less than eight weeks before the presidential election.
Calling it fair to ask Republicans to put revenue-generating means on the table in negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff, Graham said he agreed with Norquist that raising tax rates would be bad and likely limit job growth.
He added, however, that with revenue coming into the government at historic lows, Congress is responsible for too much to stick to an ideological pledge limiting legislators from doing their jobs.
“When you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece,” Graham said. “Republicans should put revenue on the table. We’re this far in debt, [and] we don’t generate enough revenue.
What Republicans will need to see from Democrats, Graham said, is not only spending cuts, but reforms to entitlements because the cuts, historically, never come into play.
“It’s fair to ask my party to put revenue on the table — we’re below historic averages,” Graham said. “I will not raise taxes to do it. I will cap deductions. If you cap deductions around the $30,000, $40,000 range, you can raise a trillion dollars in revenue and the people who lose their deductions are the upper income Americans.”
Graham said that cuts to the military will “destroy” it and that they need to be avoided at all costs, adding that allowing the U.S. Army to shrink to its smallest size since 1940, Navy to be the smallest since 1915 and Air Force to its smallest size in history would be akin to “shooting ourselves in the head” from a national defense standpoint.
The roughly $1 trillion in automatic cuts to the Pentagon’s budget has been referred to in a plethora of apocalyptic terms, including references to both “shooting ourselves in the head” and “shooting ourselves in the foot” by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, according to the Washington Post.
In addition to capping deductions on upper income Americans, Graham said he thinks money can be squeezed from both the Medicare and Social Security budgets through reform, allowing Congress to avoid the sequester part of the cliff and not have to raise taxes.
The senator said that while he does not expect Democrats to make large, Paul Ryan-style changes to either program, raising the age that Americans are eligible for Medicare benefits is one of several ways to control the cost to run it.
“I don’t think you can look at entitlement reform without adjusting the age for retirement, Graham said. “It goes to 66, 67 here pretty soon for Social Security. . . . Adjust Medicare from 65 to 67 over the next 30 years. Means test benefits for people in [upper income brackets]. I don’t expect the Democrats to go for premium support or a voucher plan, but I do expect them to adjust these entitlement programs before they bankrupt the country and run out of money themselves. Age adjustment and means testing for both social security and medicare I think are eminently reasonable.”
Regarding Benghazi, Graham said that despite former CIA Director David Petraeus testifying in closed door sessions that concerns about an anti-Muslim video potentially playing a role in the attack — and that information about al-Qaida was left out of those points to protect covert sources — he believes the entire thing was a “political smokescreen” designed to protect Obama’s re-election bid.
“There was really no intelligence saying this was a spontaneous event, and the storyline created by Ambassador [to the U.N. Susan] Rice and the president himself for seven days was far out of sync with the intelligence. It was a political smokescreen, not an accurate reporting of what happened to those four dead Americans in Benghazi. We will get to it like we got to the bottom of Iran-Contra.”
Petraeus, as well as Obama and several congressional Democrats, have maintained that national security and intelligence concerns caused them to pull most of the references from terrorism that the CIA and national director of intelligence approved for release to the public.
Graham said an August 16 report from the CIA station chief reported concerns about al-Qaida groups forming in the area and that they were not prepared to handle any attack.
Fox News has reported that the CIA was in the process of closing a previously secret annex a mile from the U.S. Consulate, however the consulate itself remained open and operational. One of Graham’s main questions, he said, is why there had been no step-up of security at the consulate amid reported concerns and the facility was kept open.
“The actual facts were this was a coordinated, pre-planned terrorist attack,” Graham said, later adding that “the British closed their consulate in Benghazi. The Red Cross left. We kept ours open and unreinforced. There was an al-Qaida storm brewing for a month. I blame the president above all others... The video is not the reason for this. I don’t believe it was ever the reason for this. That was a political story, not an intel story. We’re going to hold people accountable for a major national security breach three weeks before the election.”
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