Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday said he is ready to violate conservative activist Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge to reach a deal to avoid the looming "fiscal cliff."
"I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country," Graham said on ABC's "This Week." "When you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece."
"I am willing to generate revenue," he said. "I will not raise tax rates to do it; I will cap deductions."
The pledge from Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, which has been signed by the majority of Republican lawmakers, commits signers to "oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses … and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."
Norquist has held signers' feet to the fire during fiscal negotiations, arguing that if they break the pledge, they are breaking a promise made to their constituents.
Graham is the second high-profile Republican to assert his independence from Norquist this week, following Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.),who told a local radio station: “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge."
Graham was more specific about his objection to the pledge than Chambliss.
"I agree with Grover that we shouldn’t raise rates, but I think Grover is wrong when it comes to capping deductions and buying down the debt," Graham said Sunday.
The senator made that same distinction in June, telling ABC that it's "OK with me" to eliminate loopholes in the tax code even if they aren't replaced by additional tax cuts.
But the deductions were not the only point of disagreement between the two men on Sunday.
Norquist, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Friday, said GOP leaders should "take the sequester."
"This is just much better than raising taxes," he said, in keeping with his position that the answer to the fiscal crisis is cutting spending, not raising taxes.
Graham, though, rejected Norquist's advice, saying "the sequester destroys the United States military."
The sequester refers to the automatic cuts to mandatory spending, including defense spending, set to take place at the end of the year. The $1 trillion in cuts are a result of last year’s Budget Control Act, and part of the so-called fiscal cliff which the economy is approaching at the end of the year.
Economists warn the automatic cuts and rising tax rates could push the nation back into a recession.