Sens. Graham, Warner describe possible components of big budget deal

A long-term budget deal could include infrastructure spending, entitlement and tax reform and a replacement of some or all of the cuts mandated by the sequester, according to two senators who are on a committee charged with negotiating a budget deal by mid-December.

Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Mark Warner, D-Va., both said on "Face the Nation" Sunday that there are areas where bipartisan agreement can be reached. Their committee must come up with a budget proposal by Dec. 13 as part of the deal negotiated to reopen the government and lift the debt ceiling last week.

Warner said that Congress can move forward in three stages: Show the ability to govern by passing a budget, make investments in infrastructure and replace some cuts put in place by sequestration, and negotiate a grand bargain.

"I believe that the single biggest thing we could do for our economy, single biggest job creator would be to put together a bigger bargain that includes revenues, that includes entitlement reforms," Warner said. "We all know at the end of the day, Republicans are going to have to give on revenues, Democrats are going to have to give on entitlement reform."

Graham agreed that there is bipartisan support for an infrastructure bill, and said President Obama should give Democrats some "political cover" to reform entitlements.

"If the president would give cover to Democrats to enact [Consumer Price Index] changes that he's already embraced, then people like me would agree to bring in revenue," Graham said. "Not by raising taxes, by flattening out the tax code and bring in some repatriated corporate earnings at a lower rate."

That money could be applied to infrastructure, and to replace parts or all of the sequester cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act, he said.

But Graham may be in a minority of Republicans who want to undo the sequester. In an earlier interview on "Face the Nation," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saidhis "bottom line" in negotiations is to ensure that Democrats don't break the required spending caps.

Like McConnell, Graham indicated that trying to force changes in Obamacare through a government shutdown was an ill-planned scheme.

"The tactic of defunding the government, unless [Mr. Obama] repealed his signature issue, was as poorly designed as Obamacare care itself, almost," Graham said. He argued that the Republican Party "helped President Obama when he needed our help the most" by shutting down the government.

"Our party's been hurt, our brand name's at the lowest ever," Graham said. "Obamacare actually got a bump in polling, and we got in the way of a disastrous roll out. So from my point of view, this was a tactical choice that hurt us. But the good news for the Republican Party is the debacle is over, if we don't do it again, and Obamacare is a continuing debacle".

He asked his fellow Republicans to follow House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who is "ready to do a big deal," according to Graham.

"John Boehner is a willing participant. So is Mitch McConnell. We have a unique opportunity here after this debacle called the shutdown to re-energize the Congress and maybe get in better standing...please, follow John," he said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for