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Middle path

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With just more than a month before massive federal tax hikes and spending cuts take effect, prominent members of Congress from both parties have signalled readiness to compromise on their party’s long-held position to avoid going over the “fiscal cliff.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina joined other prominent Republicans over the weekend by backing off the party’s rigid anti-tax pledge as a way to generate more revenue. Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” he said he was willing to “violate” the pledge in order to reach an agreement “for the good of the country.”

New York’s Rep. Peter King said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that a pledge “signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago” should not apply to this Congress. “I think everything should be on the table,” he said. “I’m just saying we should not be taking ironclad positions.”

Republicans weren’t the only ones talking that way. Sen. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, said his party should put cuts to entitlement programs on the table.

Also speaking on ABC, Sen. Durbin said: “Those saying, ‘Don’t touch it. Don’t change it,’ are ignoring the obvious. We can make meaningful reforms in Medicare and Medicaid without compromising the integrity of the program.”

Sen. Graham stood by his party’s position that more revenue does not necessarily mean raising tax rates on Americans. President Obama wants to let Bush-era tax cuts expire for Americans earning more than $250,000 a year to close the deficit and avoid steep across-the-board spending cuts starting Jan. 1.

Republicans object to raising tax rates but not revenues, which they say can be achieved by closing loopholes and eliminating or capping deductions commonly use by businesses, individuals and families. However, that route is already facing opposition from powerful lobbying groups seeking to protect members’ special interests.

The AARP says no to changes in Social Security and Medicare, such as raising the age for retirement and eligibility. According to Associated Press reports, the National Association of Home Builders objects to modifying the mortgage interest deduction that encourages homeownership and spurs housing sales by saving homeowners $99 billion a year in taxes. Charitable groups and universities want Congress to stay away from the charitable deduction that costs the government about $51 billion a year.

However, solving the country’s fiscal problems cannot be done by imposing higher taxes on a single group.

It will require the consensus-building approach of Sens. Durbin and Graham with a combination of spending cuts, including entitlements, and broad-based tax reform to generate more revenue.

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