Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has been vigorously campaigning against the military spending sequester, $600 billion in cuts triggered after Congress failed to agree on a debt reduction plan. The New York Times reported that Graham — on a tour against the sequester in his home state — is even willing to defy a pledge against tax hikes organized by anti-tax advocate and conservative power-broker Grover Norquist. The Times reported:
Mr. Graham said the sentiment for raising revenues by closing tax loopholes or imposing higher fees on items like federal oil leases is expanding in his party.
Asked about the “no new taxes” pledge almost all Republicans have signed, he shrugged: “I’ve crossed the Rubicon on that.”
House Republicans have issued dire warning about sequester’s military cuts and flip flopped on last August’s debt deal, even seeking to shift the cuts to domestic programs that benefit the poor.
But recently, the position Graham espoused on his South Carolina tour gained traction among other Republicans keen on preserving high defense spending. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), the House Armed Services chair who forcefully opposes any military cuts, said this winter he would support tax hikes to avoid sequestration.
Democrats have been pushing the tack for a while. In March, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) pointed out that a “vote to extend the Bush tax cuts in their entirety would, in essence, be the vote to lock in sequestration” by cutting down on revenue to offset government debt. The Times report today pointed out that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is unlikely to allow sequestration to be averted without a debt reduction package that includes increased government revenue. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) was more blunt speaking to the Times, noting that the Republicans that supported last August’s Budget Control Act — 28 in the Senate and 174 in the House — were given the choice of automatically-triggered military spending cuts or tax increases. Van Hollen said:
The consistent pattern here is they have chosen to defend special interest tax breaks over defense spending. They made that choice.
Grover Norquist, for his part, was already miffed this weekend because of Republicans dropping out of his pledge, seeking to contrast their fickle adherence to his diktats with GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s vocal support. He hasn’t reacted yet to Graham’s defection from the anti-tax pledge, but one imagines he won’t take it sitting down.