GOP Lawmaker: Tea Partiers Must Play Ball

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called on freshmen "Tea Party" members to help provide solutions in the next Congress and begin making tough decisions.

Although he praised the newcomers for their ability to shake up the political landscape, he cautioned that the new Congress, when it convenes next year, must not be "just all talk" and be willing to make sacrifices on spending.

"The Tea Party will turn on the Republicans as well as the Democrats," he told CBS News' Bob Schieffer. "But it will be a test of the Tea Party. If they come up here in large numbers and bring a new energy, I applaud what they did. But they have to help us solve problems," Graham said. "If we don't adjust the retirement age on social security and Medicare, we're just all talk."

The senator even said that "people in our income level, we're going to have to give up some of our benefits that have been promised because we just don't have enough money to do it all." It's not sure what income bracket he considers himself in, but Graham said that "I'm ready, willing and able to make the hard decisions."

The GOP senator has been highly critical of the lame-duck session that is currently meeting, and he seems to be rallying support and looking forward to the 112th Congress when it convenes on Jan. 3. Graham has bemoaned the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays, and the Democrats' failed effort to push through the DREAM Act, a bill that would have provided citizenship to thousands of foreign-born students. He even spoke about the compromise that led to the extension of Bush era tax cuts.

"I think getting the tax cuts extend was a tough deal that was good for America, but look how hard that was," Graham said. "The House is in revolt. People are pissed off in the House at the [compromise over the] estate tax. That's going to carry over a bit [to the next Congress.]"

The Democrats are a bit happier about how things have turned out. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she looks forward to working across the aisle in the next session.

"I have some disagreement with my friend Lindsey here about the last month or so. We were able to get some significant things done. A significant tax bill-both Lindsey and I supported that. That was done on a bipartisan basis. We were able to get 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repealed with the support of eight Republicans yesterday. That was a major step," Klobuchar said.

"As you go through what we've done, these things have been done on a bipartisan basis. I think there is hope for the future."

But Klobuchar recognized that more needs to be done on the economy and bringing down the deficit.

Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who will be the ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee, said the next Congress will take a knife to discretionary spending.

"Every bit of our debt fundamentally is overspending in the discretionary accounts," Sessions said on "Face the Nation." "Yes, the entitlements are going into deficit in the future, big time. Huge challenges. But we cannot go to our Social Security recipients, our Medicare recipients and demand big cuts in what they are going to receive so Congress can continue to spend its discretionary money.

"I think the House is going to submit a very lean, tight, tough budget. The Senate is going to have a real difficult time accommodating the challenges that we face."

Graham also acknowledged the coming challenges, but warned that Congress must make major changes in order to salvage its image. He pointed out that, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday, Americans' approval of the Congress has hit a new low of 13 percent, the worst in Gallup polling history.

"We have to ask ourselves, how does that happen? And who are the 13 percent and what do they like? If we don't recognize that about ourselves and get this body in better standing with the American people, nothing is possible. I'm an optimist. I think we can change things. But it's going to take sacrifice and political commitment I haven't seen in a long time," Graham said.
  • Jimmy So

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