ANALYSIS: Cracks In The Conservative Armor

Cracks In The Conservative Armor

PHOTO: Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., March 12, 2012.
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So much for pledges?

As lawmakers return to Washington today, the deadline to put on the brakes before the country plunges off the fiscal cliff is now in sight, and it appears that both sides are open to some wheeling and dealing. For Republicans, that may mean breaking a promise many of them made not to raise taxes.

"When you're $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told ABC's George Stephanopoulos yesterday in a "This Week" interview. "Republicans should put revenue on the table."

Infographic: What to Know About the "Fiscal Cliff"

But for Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist, the spirit of the pledge seems as alive as ever even as GOP lawmakers like Graham publicly contemplate defecting.

"What the pledge does of course is allows elected officials to make it clear openly to their voters where they stand," Norquist said in an interview with ABC's David Kerley. "Are they going to be with reforming government or raising taxes to continue more of the same?"

Norquist is casting the pledge as lawmakers' "commitment to their constituents" -- rather than to him -- and he told ABC News over the weekend that the hundreds who have signed it "are largely keeping it."

But other prominent Republicans are joining Graham, including Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who signaled his openness to re-thinking the pledge yesterday on NBC's "Meet The Press."

"The world is changed and the economic situation is different," King said.

Watch: Nancy Pelosi on the status of the fiscal cliff

Of course, Graham on "This Week" and other GOP members of Congress who appeared on the Sunday talk shows qualified their support for raising revenue on not raising tax rates but rather on capping certain deductions.

And for all the talk of taxes, there's another elephant in the room that gets a lot less attention: Entitlement reform.

"I will violate the pledge -- long story short -- for the good of the country only if Democrats will do entitlement reform," Graham said.

Also appearing on "This Week," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., acknowledged that "meaningful reforms" for Medicare should be on the table.

"Only 12 years of solvency lie ahead if we do nothing," Durbin said. "So those who say don't touch it, don't change it are ignoring the obvious."

But how many other Democrats are going to be willing to see serious reform as part of the discussion?

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