Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is one of the GOP’s staunchest defenders of the Pentagon’s bloated budget. Last week, while on a tour against the ten year $600 billion mandatory military spending cuts if Congress fails to agree on a debt reduction plan, Graham indicated that he was willing to cross a major Republican red line and raise taxes to help stave off the military spending reductions. The New York Times reported Graham as saying “the sentiment for raising revenues by closing tax loopholes or imposing higher fees on items like federal oil leases is expanding in his party.”
Graham said he “crossed the Rubicon” on a pledge against tax hikes organized by anti-tax advocate and conservative power-broker Grover Norquist. But the South Carolina Republican has since made a 180-degree shift.
By Friday, Graham had reversed his position, reports U.S. News & World Report. A “senior Graham aide” said:
[Graham] in favor of increased revenue, but there are ways to do that without raising tax rates. Closing loopholes and deductions in the tax code will bring in revenue, and that is what Senator Graham was talking about.
Graham’s fallback to claiming he was just talking about “closing loopholes and deductions” hardly matches up with his statements earlier in the same week that he had “crossed the Rubicon” on the GOP’s no new taxes pledge. His reversal is perhaps more likely the result of finding few allies in either party for preserving defense spending levels by raising taxes.
“That’s what it appears Graham was up to,” said CAP’s Lawrence Korb, “But no one went with him. So the fallback is to say you were talking about closing loopholes. That’s how you get around the pledge.”
“We don’t need to be raising taxes for defense or for any other reason,” Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) told U.S. News. “What we need is to reform the tax system.” And Graham found little support from Democrats who have often found themselves at odds with DOD budget hawks and the GOP’s insistence on raising revenues through cutting needed public services for the poor.
“What we need is to reform the tax system,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters last week, refusing to “cheer” Republicans, such as Graham, who are only willing to defect on their tax cuts pledge in order to preserve the defense budget.
Graham’s views on preserving U.S. military spending levels, which have more than doubled over the last decade, is at odds with the American public.
A poll conducted last month by the Center for Public Integrity found that that when shown the discretionary budget for national defense alongside the discretionary budgets for education, veterans’ benefits, homeland security and various other spending areas, 65 percent of respondents found Defense spending to be more than what they had expected.