(Bloomberg News) For Senator John Cornyn, it was the situation in Greece.

The Texas Republican said he's willing to back tax increases as part of a major deficit-reduction deal because he fears the European debt crisis could spread to the U.S.

"We've never been in this spot before," said Cornyn, who also leads his party's effort to elect more Republicans to the Senate. "We're looking over at Europe and what's happening in Greece and Italy -- we risk having another huge financial crisis in this country and we've got to try to solve the problem."

He is one of a growing number of Republicans, many with otherwise impeccable anti-tax credentials, who say they are willing to raise taxes to reach a big deficit-reduction deal with Democrats.

That may help insulate them from charges of stubbornness if Congress's bipartisan supercommittee doesn't meet its Nov. 23 deadline to find a way to cut $1.5 trillion. For now, it's helped shift Washington's debate to how much, rather than whether, to raise taxes.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said he's encouraged by the shift even as Democrats scoff at a specific Republican proposal.

"It's a step in the right direction for them to just rhetorically cross that line," said Conrad.

Asked if Republicans were trying to set up a blame game should the supercommittee fail, Conrad said, "I hope not" because "if we aren't beyond that, we are in real trouble."

Spending Cuts

Democrats say the Republican deficit plan relies too heavily on spending cuts and would give the wealthy too much of a tax break. Some question whether its numbers add up.