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Column: GOP must do tax overhaul, repeal/replace, or ‘we’re dead’

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Editor’s note: Sen. Graham has raised his profile in the past few months, co-authoring a major health-care proposal and most recently championing cooperation between the White House and GOP leaders in Congress to enact key parts of President Trump’s agenda. Here are excerpts from his Sunday appearance on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

John Dickerson: Senator, let’s start with Iran. Are there enough votes in Congress to get this amendment to the Iran deal?
Lindsey Graham: I don’t know. I hope so. I’d hate to be a Democrat defending the Sunset Clause. Under this agreement, after 15 years, the Iranians can do anything they want in terms of enrichment and reprocessing. I think Democrats are going to have a hard time justifying denying inspections of military bases.
Dickerson: Here’s how they would justify it. They would say that, in fact, the sunset provisions are stacked so that they can’t move right to a nuclear weapon. And that if they started to, there are inspectors in there watching and the international community would be on them right away.
Graham: The president ran on the idea this is a bad deal for America, and he won. He’s fulfilling a campaign promise. This is a terrible deal for America and the region. You’re wrong about the Sunset Clause, with all due respect. There is no limitation on centrifuge reprocessing and enrichment. There is no requirement that they stop marching toward a bomb.
Dickerson: Sen. Bob Corker says the president is castrating Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Do you agree with that view?
Graham: No. I don’t agree with that. I like Bob Corker. It breaks my heart that he’s leaving. He’s one of the most valuable members of the Republican Conference. He and the president have gotten into this Twitter war.
Dickerson: This isn’t just a Twitter war. This is the foreign relations chairman making a claim about the president, his ability to be convinced by his national security people.
Graham: The president has changed his opinions when it came to Afghanistan by listening to the best national security team I’ve seen in 20 years. He’s keeping his promise to try to get a better deal with the Iranians. And he’s finally putting North Korea on notice that the policy of the United States is changing.
Dickerson: Are you going to get tax reform done?
Graham: Yeah, if we don’t, we’re dead. You’re going to ask me about Bannon, so I’ll just go and ask myself.
Dickerson: Steve Bannon, the president’s former adviser.
Graham: Yeah, so what’s going on? It’s a symptom of a greater problem. If we don’t cut taxes and we don’t eventually repeal and replace Obamacare, then we’re going to lose across the board in the House in 2018. And all of my colleagues running in primaries in 2018 will probably get beat. It will be the end of Mitch McConnell as we know it.
If we do cut taxes and we do repeal and replace Obamacare, it doesn’t matter what Bannon does, because we’ll win.
Dickerson: But Bannon has said that Republicans should go to war against McConnell.
Graham: Mitch McConnell’s not our problem. Our problem is that we promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, and we failed. We promised to cut taxes and we have yet to do it.
If we’re successful, Mitch McConnell’s fine. If we’re not, we’re all in trouble. We lose our majority, and I think President Trump will not get reelected.
Dickerson: Is Steve Bannon a big problem or a little problem in trying to get anything done? He’s saying everything you’re doing is going against the cause.
Graham: Bannon can’t beat us if we’re successful. And if we’re not successful, it doesn’t matter who tries to beat us. They’ll be successful.

Republican Lindsay Graham represents South Carolina in the U.S. Senate.