GOP's Graham Won't Say If He'd Accept Tax Increases in Debt Ceiling Deal

July 7, 2011 - 2:54 PM

lindsey graham sc

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

(CNSNews.com) – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of 12 Republican senators to have signed the “Cut-Cap-Balance Pledge” to cut spending, cap the debt, and balance the budget, would not say whether he will vote for a debt-limit increase that includes tax hikes.

But two other members of the U.S. Senate who have signed the pledge told CNSNews.com that they oppose raising taxes with any debt-ceiling increase, according to their spokesmen.

The pledge commits the signee to “substantial cuts in spending that will reduce the deficit,” “enforceable spending caps,” and “congressional passage (not mere support) of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” which includes “both a spending limitation and a super-majority for raising taxes, in addition to balancing revenues and expenses.”

CNSNews.com asked Graham’s office: “Senator Graham has signed the Cut-Cap-Balance Pledge. Under any circumstances, will the senator vote for a debt limit increase that includes a tax increase?”

Kevin Bishop, Graham’s communications director, however, responded to CNSNews.com only by providing a copy of the pledge. He did not respond to the question of tax increases.

CNSNews.com asked similar questions to other members of Congress who have signed the pledge and who did respond.

Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), for example, are both on record opposing efforts to raise taxes, according to their spokesmen.

Hatch, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Finance Committee, opposes raising taxes with a debt-ceiling increase, according to his spokeswoman at the Senate Finance Committee, Julia Lawless.

“[Sen. Hatch] has consistently said that any changes to the tax code should be done through fundamental tax reform and must remain separate from the debt-reduction discussions,” Lawless said.

Lawless pointed out that last week Hatch said that “with a fragile economy, tax hikes on our job-creators in the name of debt reduction is bad policy, especially since our debt crisis is fueled by unsustainable spending.”

Brian Phillips, communications director for Lee, also placed his boss on record as opposing any tax increases.

“Senator Lee has said he will oppose any tax increases, and will only consider voting for an increase in the debt ceiling if both houses of Congress have passed a Balanced Budget Amendment,” Phillips told CNSNews.com in an e-mail.

The debt limit, or debt ceiling, is the amount of money Congress is legally allowed to borrow. That limit, $14.29 trillion, was hit on May 16. Members of Congress have been meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama to try to reach a deal to increase that debt ceiling by another $2.4 trillion. Republicans have said yes, provided spending cuts exceed the amount of any increase while the White is demanding at least $400 billion in new taxes, which the Republicans oppose.