Lindsey Graham: On debt limit, GOP has "nobody to blame but ourselves"

WASHINGTON - JUNE 14: U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (C) speaks as (L-R) Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Sen. John Thune (R-SC), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) listen June 14, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Republicans spoke to the press on several issues after their weekly policy luncheon. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (C) speaks as (L-R) Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Sen. John Thune (R-SC), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) listen June 14, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
Senator Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., on Wednesday lamented his party's having made such "a big deal" about its opposition to raising the debt ceiling, and conceded that now Republicans were struggling to walk back their statements.

"Our problem is we made a big deal about this for three months," said Graham of the debt limit debate, according to Politico. "How many Republicans have been on TV saying, 'I'm not going to raise the debt limit'? You know, Mitch [McConnell] says, 'I'm not going to raise the debt limit unless we talk about Medicare.' And I've said I'm not going to raise the debt limit until we do something about spending and entitlements.'"

Democrats and Republicans have for weeks been engaged in tense negotiations over an agreement to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion borrowing limit, but progress has been repeatedly stalled over issues like whether or not to increase tax revenues - a matter on which neither party appears willing to budge.

Graham says now Republicans should have tempered their language early on.

"We shouldn't have said that if we didn't mean it... We've got nobody to blame but ourselves," Graham told reporters. 

Graham also disputed the argument, made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday, that Republicans couldn't vote for the debt ceiling because it would destroy the GOP "brand" and put the party at risk of being blamed "for a bad economy."

(McConnell has proposed a controversial alternative plan, which would both enable President Obama to raise the debt limit and allow Republicans to avoid voting for it. That plan, however, would not require Mr. Obama to enact any commensurate spending cuts.)

"Most people who got elected in 2010 didn't come up here worried about the brand, they came up here worried about the country," Graham said. "You go explain to them why they're wrong [when they] say that the country's on an unsustainable path. I don't think they are wrong."

Nevertheless Graham, like a handful of his fellow lawmakers, appears to be looking at McConnell's plan as a last-ditch means with which to avoid defaulting on the government's loans in the event that Republicans and Democrats are unable to agree on a compromise.

"If they can't [come to a deal], then Mitch's idea makes sense," Graham said. "But if they can pass something out of the House that raises the debt limit that changes the reason we got in debt, that would be a fundamental new direction for the country, I think we should support that."

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