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Graham and Rigell Open Door to New Revenue

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Graham said he could support another $600 billion in revenue if it were part of a larger deficit reduction deal that would also reduce the growth of entitlement programs.

“I’m not going to put any revenue on the table to fix sequestration,” he said. “The next time I would vote to increase revenue would be when we did entitlement reform.”

“Do like what Simpson-Bowles did,” Graham said, referring to the commission that called for a range of spending cuts and tax provisions to reduce the deficit over time. “Put some money on debt retirement, some money on rate reduction and reform entitlements in a way that you’re not going to privatize Social Security, you’re not going to create a voucher program for Medicare. I’m talking about means testing, CPI adjustments and age adjustments.”

Rigell argued that more revenue is needed and said the GOP should not rule out any proposal just because it may include some revenue. But he framed additional revenue as part of a larger agreement.

Rigell noted House Republicans passed two sequester replacement bills last year and called on Obama to offer a detailed plan for stopping the sequester. Both would have replaced the automatic cuts with reductions in domestic programs. The second passed late in the year with a 215-209 vote, and it is unclear whether the House leadership could muster the votes to pass that bill in the 113th Congress.

The Senate plans to vote on Democratic and Republican legislation to replace the first year of sequestration Thursday. Although the GOP has not settled on a plan yet, Sen. Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho, said on the way into Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office Tuesday that he expects the plan would give Obama flexibility to reallocate the spending cuts.

Graham is among at least a handful of GOP senators who are skeptical of giving the administration that authority.

Graham said his support for additional revenue is not at odds with McConnell’s opposition to additional taxes. “No, I agree with Sen. McConnell,” Graham said. “We don’t need any more tax revenue to fix sequestration. I believe Sen. McConnell would do more revenue for entitlement reform.”

McConnell spokesman Mike Brumas dismissed the need for new revenue. “The leader has already addressed this issue in a dozen speeches this year — the tax debate is over,” he said.

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